Need To Evacuate in Oregon? Hope You’ve Got A Car!

If you haven’t heard, the west coast of America has been on fire lately. For California this is nothing new, but it’s been fascinating to me as a native Oregonian to see how the response has gone.

It’s also been interesting because I have spent today since 11:00 am or so with a small window on my computer displaying a map that says I’m about 3 miles away from the “Level 2” zone. I guess that’s just what’s it’s like, living the Level 1 Life. I don’t check it obsessively, but I click over every hour or so to make sure I don’t need to wrap up my work and get out of here.

Here’s a picture of what the sky looks like right now, although you’ve almost certainly seen better pictures elsewhere.

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And here’s one I managed to snap that actually sort-of shows the level of smoke we’re dealing with. It’s not as bad as other places, and there’s no ash yet, but it’s macabre to see it everywhere outside.

There are some shelters set up where I’m located (Milwaukie, OR — in Clackamas County) and that’s a trip. The mall nearby is taking RVs only, and they make a point to let everyone know that there is no livestock allowed. There’s an expo center that is taking livestock, and livestock only though, so if that’s your concern, you’re in luck.

Everywhere seems to be for people who have tents to set up, RVs to hitch, cars to sleep in, or … need to store their cows, I guess?

The evacuation info reminds everyone to bring plenty of water and snacks because you might be in your car for a while. This is probably very good advice for people who might be evacuating and who have a car. I’m positive that the shelter locations are a really great alternative to being in a burning living area; as long as you’ve got a tent and everything, and a way to get all that equipment there.

I … don’t?

Now, to be fair, to my knowledge transit is still operating in most of the areas, except where it would be unsafe, so in theory I could get out of here that way.

Still, it’s a real bummer to be walking long distances to busses and riding around with a satchel you’ve filled with your most crucial possessions. I have 2 changes of outfits, my computer, my backup drive, and some charging equipment, along with a Kindle, but it’s all pretty heavy and not pleasant to be walking very far with.

I guess it’s more of a bummer if your house goes up in flames. I just sort of rent a tiny basement room, so in the grand scheme of things I’m not losing much if it all goes pear-shaped. So I’ll allow for that; other people are feeling tons of intense dread, which is perfectly valid. I am glad I am not one of them, but if I weren’t so cynical and fatalistic I definitely would be.

But I can’t help realize that essentially, I’m S.O.L. here. Every evacuation plan and shelter situation has the same basic assumption that you’ve got a car to throw your important things and some vittles into, and head out along your precarious way. You can sleep in your car, or you can sleep in your RV, or you can rent a motel if you’ve got the cash (which I don’t, and anyway they’re all showing jacked up prices right now, and I’m sure they’re filled to the brim anyways).

I’m not going for the sob-story angle here — I’m more bemused by this reality than I am discouraged — but objectively speaking, the livestock are getting a better deal from the city/state than people who don’t have cars or the money to rent a hotel, and who don’t really know anyone in the area.

I had sort of assumed there’d be a big area with tents set up for displaced people and you sort of showed up and they gave you a bed for the night until the emergency was over. Isn’t that what disaster response is supposed to be like?

I can attribute some of this to the fact these fires started and spread rapidly, and that Oregon is not used to this sort of thing, especially this close to our cities.

That does mean that how our city and state respond says a lot about their priorities in a crisis. Which is kind of incriminating.

The fact that someone stopped and said “we desperately need to set up a place where people with livestock can keep their animals during the raging wildfires” but nobody bothered to think maybe there should be some emergency housing for people who aren’t in a position to couch-surf, rent a room, or sleep in a car, is worrisome.

I get it, I’m not a property-owner, I don’t own cattle, I don’t even drive a car — that makes me practically unamerican — but come on. There are people in a lot worse situations than me and they’re probably wondering the same thing. What are we supposed to do, get out and walk vaguely towards an area on the map that isn’t in potential danger, and then sort out the rest when we get there?

I dunno. I’ll say it again: livestock got a lot more consideration than individuals living close-ish to the fringes of society.

There’s a perfect response to that statement in Yiddish though — one which encapsulates entirely my feelings on the realization — and it’s all I can think to say right now:

Nu?

A side-note: I am hearing vague grumblings from people about how the warnings are sporadic and the fire service is leaving people “in doubt” and to that I’d like to say: what? Did you think a wildfire was going to be perfectly predictable? The fire service is handling this situation admirably and if you don’t like situations where things are unpredictable and the stakes are high, I don’t know what to tell you except, like … don’t be around wildfires I guess?

Bad things happen and it’s not good but hey, maybe try not yelling at the only people doing you a favor here.

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I’m an IT consultant, I studied physics, and I enjoy securities analysis in my free time, when I’m not writing. He/him or they/them. BLM!

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