The Tillamook Burn

The Tillamook Burn

Here is an Active Large Fires Map from showing the current fires in Oregon. If you look at the biggest concentration of fires, you’ll notice that my city of Salem is to the left of it. If it gets this far and we have to evacuate, we’re fucked. Where in the world would we go?? Salem isn’t a large city, but there are a whole lot of people who live here. It’s totally surreal for me. 

I’ve lived in Oregon all my life, and fires this big are almost unheard of here. The sky is full of smoke that looks like a heavy fog, and air quality is suffering. Everything is being covered by grime. Whole towns are devastated, and we have a lot of evacuees here waiting for news of when they can go home and start sifting through the ashes. I’ve spent a few shifts at Walmart watching them and helping them find supplies for the time being. And it really strikes me how these folks  just walk through the store with their families, seeming to take the circumstances in their stride. I don’t know if I could do as well:

First, a few interesting tidbits: 

The burn took place in an old-growth forest and destroyed something almost irreplaceable. We’re talking about logs this size:

My father was among those students bused out from Portland to help plant a new forest. 

On family trips to the coast as a child I can remember looking out the car window and seeing blackened skeletons of trees lying in the midst of the live forest. I was told they were remnants of the burn, but I don’t really know. I also don’t know if you can still see them – it’s been a long time since I’ve been to the coast. 

The burn ultimately contributed to the creation of the Tillamook State Forest.

I can’t begin to describe how beautiful it is.

And now, without further ado, I give you the story of the Tillamook Burn. It’s well worth your time to visit the site. There are some pretty amazing photographs.

The Tillamook Burn was a catastrophic series of large forest fires in the northern Oregon Coast Range mountains 50 miles west of Portland. It began in 1933 and struck at six-year intervals through 1951, burning a combined total of 355,000 acres (554 square miles). For a generation of Oregonians whose lives were touched by the fires, “The Burn” also became a place, defined by the overall perimeter of the combined fires (as in, “Let’s drive up into The Burn to see if we can find some deer…”).

The largest of the four fires—and the most devastating—began about noon on August 14, 1933, in a logging operation on the slopes above the North Fork of Gales Creek, west of the town of Forest Grove. The near-record weather conditions on that day (104 degree temperature with a relative humidity of about 20 percent), a tinder dry forest ready to burn, and the remote location of the fire, combined to ignite and feed a challenging fire.

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