Wednesday, January 23, 2002
A group of citizens have been working for some time on a proposal to build a "satellite" fire station on Burdoin Mountain. Because of the possibility of a severe fire getting out of control in the area, this is a concept that deserves to swiftly become a reality.
Fred Heany, president of the Lower Burdoin Community Council, originally sought permission to build a fire station on his own land on the mountain. However, regulatory hurdles made that proposal basically unworkable, so a new plan was hatched: building the station on federal land managed by the U.S. Forest Service.
The revised concept is to build a structure that would house two or three firefighting rigs, thereby sharply reducing the response time to begin battling a wildfire on the mountain. That would help to protect the several dozen homes and the people who live in them, as well as the land, the trees, and the wildlife on the mountain.
Burdoin Mountain receives its primary protection from the Lyle Fire Department. Firefighters must respond to the fire station in Lyle, then drive up Burdoin Mountain. As a result, it takes roughly 20 minutes or more once a fire alarm is sounded to get firefighters on the ground.
That's potentially a serious delay. As all firefighters know, rapid response is the best way to control a fire. The more time it has to spread, the more difficult it is to contain.
Happily, there appears to be widespread backing for the new station, including from the Forest Service, which is generally supportive of a proposal to build on federal land. The parcel tentatively identified as being suitable is in the "special management area" of the National Scenic Area.
Dan Harkenrider, the Hood River-based area manager for the U.S. Forest Service, pointed out last week that a fire station is a permitted use on federal land. And although he is not in a position to make any guarantees that a station can be built before further analyses are completed, Harkenrider agreed with the wisdom of placing a firefighting facility in the area.
"I certainly understand and appreciate the concerns, and I share those. My fire folks concede the need -- they've responded to many fires out there," Harkenrider said.
With about 35 residences in the area, the fire threat is real. Placing a small, centrally-located fire station on the mountain to house trucks and equipment is a smart idea, and a potentially lifesaving idea as well. Hopefully the necessary hoops can be negotiated relatively quickly, and the station can be in place within no more than a couple of years.
This is an idea that makes perfect sense.