It has been hard to avoid the politics of 2020, whether we are talking about impeachments and elections or even the more subtle political choices like how to handle a pandemic or civil unrest. Then, if you thought nothing else could go wrong, we had a rare weather event leading to huge wildfires.
These fires grew into the worst Oregon has seen in decades. They have also shown the best of Oregon when it set aside politics and rose to the challenge of neighbor helping neighbor.
While my home in the Willamette Valley was covered in smoke and ash for days, this to me seems a minor inconvenience considering what happened to so many in the towns and areas of the fire around the state. The devastation is clear. Our forestry community has lost millions of board feet of their crop. Many have lost homes that have been in their families for decades, or businesses that have been the cornerstones of rural communities.
How can one not be humbled by these accounts? Lone Rock Resources in Roseburg had employees with houses directly in the path of the fire, but they worked away from their homes to help others to stop the fire. K&E Excavating near Salem sent equipment and staff up to build fire lines to stop the fire encroaching on more land and houses. Farmers filled irrigation ponds with water one truck at a time so helicopters could reload and douse the flames. I have heard of off duty firefighters leading crews of teenagers to dig fire lines. I have heard of people driving elderly out of the fire’s paths with flames on both sides of the road.
Oregonians like these are what makes our state great, giving blood, sweat, and tears to stop these fires from destroying the homes of people they may not even know. These men and women didn’t stop and wonder what political party the landowner was connected to. They went out and helped to the best of their ability. In my opinion these are the people who lead Oregon. They do it with an axe or shovel in their hand. They lead by doing.
I am reminded of the fact that the type of helping I am talking about goes way beyond people giving money and time. Some of these individuals and groups literally risked their health and lives to help their neighbors. We all should learn and strive to be like them.
Oregon Aglink President