Winter Planning For Summer Fire Threat

Tom McMackin

On any given day at any given moment… 



…Pictures are worth a thousand words…

Beginning in early October the wine country regions of Sonoma, Napa and Santa Rosa, California, suffered under the ravaging forces of wildfires. The most recent toll exacted by this calamity stands at 14,000 homes and structures destroyed or severely damaged. Forty-two residents lost their lives. The costs calculated to date have pressed beyond $3 billion considering the expense of fighting the fires, the lost properties and the initial impact to the region’s economics. 

The Thomas fire and the Creek fires in Southern California are nearing 150,000 acres burned  with 7,500 structures destroyed, and there’s no end in sight. It’s a drought-parched area of grasses, live oaks and mixed Manzanita and Chaparral ladder fuels on steep slopes, fanned by steady, strong Santa Ana (or ‘Diablo’) winds gusting to 80 mph…


…Mixed White Oak savanna; the beauty of rugged and steep topography changing seasonally with curing grasses and other fine fuels; dependable wind sports conditions – these are just a few of the splendid natural features that have brought us to our own region. Being east of the Cascade range makes these desired elements possible. It also gives us eco-environments not dissimilar from the Napa area or Ventura County in California.

If you’ve taken advantage of the FireWise presentations earlier this year, you’ve heard my comparison of our enchantment with living in this spectacular natural place to the understanding that every rodeo bullrider has when settling onto a ton of incredible, force-of-Nature, real-deal, horned hamburger in a bucking chute: “It’s not IF you’re gonna get clobbered… it’s a cold comfort reality of when and how bad it’s gonna HURT!”

The 49,000 acre Eagle Creek fire at the western end of the Gorge is one of those ‘getting clobbered’ moments we all need to reflect on since it happened right on the crease between the east and west Cascade ecosystems. We all saw the news reports, or drove through smoke-shrouded congestion, or were inconvenienced by the disruption of our usual everyday routines and easy expectations of living here in the Gorge. The Inciweb website is an excellent resource to find official information on fire events nationwide and regionally. Here are a couple links on the Eagle Creek fire for more to consider :

FireWise principles and the FireWise program’s developing support base of materials, services and volunteers are available to each of us and for our High Prairie community, to assist in understanding the force of Nature that fire is in the place we’ve chosen to live. There are active concepts and real actions we can utilize, individually and together, to protect our lives and properties in any serious natural event that packs the potential to disrupt our lives and destroy the things we’ve worked hard to create where we live.

You don’t have to wait for warm weather to take any action. Here are 3 items you can put on your ‘to do’ list as Fall moves through the solstice into Winter:

1. Action !: Clearly post your address at the junction of your driveway and your primary road. These blue reflective signs can mean that in an emergency, responders will be able to find your home to help. Otherwise time may be wasted puzzling through where they’re needed!  

2. Look & List: Now that most of Fall’s effects have settled, take a walk around to survey Mine + 5’… all your properties, house, shop, shed, fences, barn & critters, driveway and 5’ around these ‘structures’ that could be threatened by fire. List the work you can do through Winter into the Spring. 

3. Look & List: Do a 30’ Scan & Plan all around home, barn and shop, etc., on your Mine + 5’ list, to keep fire at a defensible distance with these investments of your time, energy and cash. Make note of those listed items you might need help with… because you have neighbors or other resources who are willing to assist in making your home safe and our High Prairie community stronger and resilient in the face of any challenges Nature might bring our way.

Start actively creating a defensible or standalone island for the waves of a wildfire’s formidable energy to pass around when the storm blows our way!

For more information on the ‘Firewise’ & ‘Ready, Set, Go!’ programs contact Tom McMackin by email at or by phone message by calling 509-365-2786. 

Online resources: 

Firewise – or

Ready, Set, Go! – or


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.