The Pacific Index

Pacific students affected by forest fires

Sebastian Herr

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Oregon forests have taken a beating from fires in 2017 and as a result, irregular volumes of smoke and smog have plagued cities and towns all around the state, prompting Oregon Gov. Kate Brown to declare a state of emergency on Aug. 2.

According to the National Forest Service (NFS), Oregon is currently fighting and attempting to contain 13 large-scale fires from all around the state. The NFS also reported Oregon’s forest fires in 2017 have already consumed more than 509,010 acres of wildland, compared to the 219,509 acres of wildland consumed by fires last year.

Pacific University sophomore Hanna Hulse, who works as a NFS firefighter, said this year’s fires were the most active she has seen in her career thus far.

“Every home unit had its own fire,” Hulse said. “Which ties up resources and firefighters.”

Hulse said she found it difficult to be on campus as the greater Portland area dealt with the Eagle Creek Fire in the Columbia River Gorge.

“The hardest thing is you have to wait your turn,” Hulse said. “I just wanted to leave and go help.”

The NFS reported that forest fires have changed dramatically over the last few decades. According to the NFS website, “Longer fire seasons, bigger fires, more acres burned on average each year and more extreme fire behavior have become the norm.”

The forest fires this year have affected countless families and individuals across Oregon. The fires have even touched the lives of members of the Pacific community. Freshman Fernando Lira said his family’s home in Brookings, Ore., was destroyed in the Chetco Bar Fire, which as of Sept. 24 has consumed more than 191, 067 acres of land in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest in Southern Oregon.

“The fire has affected my entire family,” Lira said. “It was absolutely devastating to see something vanish just in the blink of an eye. Not only has this fire affected my own family, it has also left a scar on the community.”

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Pacific students affected by forest fires