Tom McMackin

If you haven’t been introduced to my bull riding/wildfire analogy… consider that they both fit this statement: It isn’t a matter of ‘IF’ it’s gonna happen, only ‘WHEN’ and ‘HOW BAD’ you’ll get clobbered!

California and our neighbors west of the Cascades, along with the usual western states, joined the flood/tornado/hurricane folks in NOAA’s recent report estimating $16 billion in damage loss on the economic ledger this year to date. The losses in terms of human lives and devastated lives for individuals and entire communities are well beyond any accounting formula.

This is already having impacts on us … and will into the foreseeable future. The price of a 2x8x16’ board at Home Depot has doubled in price from before Labor Day weekend!   

To lend some perspective to these current incidents consider the Peshtigo Fire. This fire started at about the same moment Mrs. O’Leary’s cow kicked over the lamp in a Chicago crib barn on the 8th of October, 1871, igniting the Great Chicago Fire. Chicago got all the headlines and press coverage. The wildfire that started in Peshtigo, Wisconsin, at the same instant burned 1.2 million acres and is estimated to have had fatalities in the range of 1,500 – 2,500 souls. You may never have heard of it because its story has been relatively forgotten in the ashes & dust of Time. History Pod ~ Peshtigo Fire ( 02:47 ) [ ]

The History Guy ~ Peshtigo Fire ( 08:27 ) [ ]

The Camp/Carr/Peshtigo fires were catastrophic, ‘tsunami’ grade wildfires, weather and conditions-driven fire-storms. These are events so intense and massive that little can be done in the midst of the holocaust to stop them. The best and only decision is to choose life safety and evacuate those areas threatened or in the progressing fireline! Many internet opinions were that nothing could have been done or would have made a difference.

For the average type of fire we see, there are many seemingly small things that each of us can do to make our places easier for first responders to defend. They could be the difference in ‘How Bad?‘ one of these natural fire events will impact you, our communities, and the greater Columbia Gorge environments.  

FireWise – things to do for Fall/Early Winter:  

Maintain [or Expand] your FIreWise buffer (defensible) zones

**Do a 360 degree Walk Around; create a list of defensibility things you can do… 0-5’/5-30’/30-100’/100’+

**Identify evergreens needing pruning! Between 1 Nov. and 31 Dec. pruning, culling trees and preparing the debris for an early Spring disposal party or bonfire will keep the Ips beetles at bay!!! (See Ips article in this issue.)

**Plan for clearing up the little stuff! That day when most of the oak leaves have fallen and you can pick a sunny few days to rake/gather up all the leaf litter around your buildings.


Contact Tom McMackin for more information on the ‘Firewise’ and ‘Ready, Set, Go!’ programs; if you have comments, questions, or suggestions; to get more involved with the High Prairie FireWise effort; or to get connected with resources available to us as a recognized FireWise Community. Contact Tom by email at or by phone message at 509-365-2786.

Online resources: 

Firewise –  or 

Ready, Set, Go! –  or

^ Top

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.