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Fire protection plan ready for public to comment

By SUE RYAN

News staff writer

June 14, 2006

Hood River County fire chiefs will answer questions tonight about a wildfire protection plan that focuses on community preparedness.

Plan coordinator Peter Mackwell invites all county residents to come Wednesday at 7 p.m. to the Rockford Fire Hall on Barrett Drive. He wants to know what the community thinks about the draft 2006 Community Wildfire Protection Plan for the county. Mackwell has led a team whose efforts during recent months have collected data on wildfire risk factors and more.

“It (the plan) identifies areas that need attention in Hood River County,” Mackwell said.

He emphasized the process is still in the information-gathering stage including looking at areas of highest risk and how populations would be displaced.

The team set a number of goals for the plan including rating areas of the county according to their potential fire risk. Mackwell zeroed in on several collaborations including between county fire chiefs and the U.S. Forest Service. That is because 85 percent of Hood River County lies outside of lands protected by a Rural Fire Protection district.

Part of the risk involved with wildfire is protecting life while another is protecting structures. Mackwell wants the public to realize the challenges firefighters can face when arriving on the scene during the crisis of a wildfire.

“The numbering system currently on the books requires homeowners have numbers on their house but not at the end of the driveway,” he said. “Or we’ll have a residence whose address is one street name but the people use a different road to get there. If we (firefighters) can’t get there, we can’t help you.”

Within the plan, each of the county’s fire chiefs evaluated what they felt were areas with the highest wildfire risk. Following Wednesday’s hearing, copies of the draft plan will be available at the public library as well as online through the county’s public works Web site.

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