When wildfires raged throughout the Pacific Northwest this September, many PROTEC17 members were called into action as part of emergency response teams to help with the relief efforts. In Oregon, where wildfires were the most destructive on record, over one million acres were burned, several towns were destroyed, and the air quality in the Portland area was the worst in the world for many days straight. 

At the City of Portland, Civil Engineer Juanita Hess was assigned to be the point person when the Water Bureau partially activated their emergency response plan. As part of the plan, Hess and her co-workers assisted other water districts with water and power needs, and provided additional materials like hard hats. They also created a contingency plan in case the watershed was evacuated.

PROTEC17 member and GIS Analyst Paul Cone also jumped to action when asked to join the emergency response team. Having worked in the Emergency Coordination Center (ECC) previously in snow incidents and other accidents, Cone was ready to help in any way he could. 

“When these things happen, you just dive in and get to work,” he said. “I didn’t know what to expect at first, but once I was there, it was energizing to see everyone with a common purpose.”

Cone worked over 50 hours, downloading and printing the latest fire maps, and creating new maps to give to firefighters and emergency personnel who need them in the field. He was assigned to monitor the Riverside fire in Clackamas County and the North Cascade fire, which was finally removed from the most dangerous list on Sept. 18 when crews were confident it could be contained.

The City of Portland has been flexible with employees as they help in these efforts. The City also allowed members who normally work outdoors flexibility in order to protect them from the hazardous air quality.

PROTEC17 is proud of our members who always jump to help their communities in need, and has donated $1,000 to the Red Cross Western Wildfire Relief Fund and the Cascade Forest Conservancy.