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Friday was my eighth straight day of covering the Chetco Bar Fire for the paper since the monster exploded in the heart of the Kalimiopsis Wilderness and marched toward Brookings — my community
Tired? You bet. I’ve worked 12-hour days nearly every day since Aug. 18, as have many of the staff writers, staying in close contact with fire officials and constantly updating our website and Facebook page.
Fortunately, I am able to leave work for home, get a hot meal, see my family and get a decent amount of sleep, while others have had to evacuate their homes, live in motels, RVs, with friends or at official shelters.
During the last week, as the fire crept closer to town and more evacuation notices were issued, I found myself torn between doing my job and going home to help my family prepare for possible evacuation.
My family lives in Harbor, which is outside the immediate evacuation area. We’ve had plenty of time to think about what to pack and where to go should we have to leave. It definitely brings some peace of mind.
After work Thursday evening, as the smoke drifted back over town and the orange sun dipped below the horizon, I was up on the roof, clearing debris from the gutters and pine needles off the shake roof. Yes, real shake shingles. I’m a little worried about that, as well as the 80-foot pine trees that surround our property.
The rest of the evening was spent re-stocking our go-packs and collecting pet supplies, family photo albums and important documents.
I returned to work Friday morning — mentally, it was like jumping back on a speeding train. There were phone calls to make, reports to file, contingency plans to make, such as how to publish the paper if we have to evacuate Brookings or the fire causes a power outage.
Not your typical day at the office.
As a journalist, it’s exciting to report on an event such as the Chetco Bar Fire. In 2002, I was here to cover the Biscuit Fire, which burned 500,000 acres east of Brookings, and in years past major wildfires in Santa Barbara, Malibu and Los Angeles. I’ve stood beside people as they watched their homes burn, helped others use garden hoses to keep flames at bay, and stood beside firefighters on the front lines, and had to scramble for safety when the wind shifted.
With the Chetco Bar Fire, things are a little different. I’m not simply an observer, covering a natural disaster in someone else’s town. This is my community, with family and friends who are directly impacted.
Yes, it’s exciting, but it’s quite nerve-wracking and stressful. I’m proud of how calm everyone has been, and how willing everyone has been to help out.
I’m impressed with the professionalism and efficiency of our local law enforcement, fire, city and county officials. Likewise for officials with the out-of-town agencies responding to the fire.
As I write this, on Friday afternoon, fire officials are bracing for another round of the “Chetco Effect” winds that could potentially drive the Chetco Bar Fire toward our community.
Fire officials were “cautiously optimistic.”
Come Saturday morning, when we wake up — if we sleep at all — what will we find?
I hope we find our community safe and untouched — and Pilot readers reading this column and wondering, “Scott — why all the worry?”