• October 20, 2020
1 Comments

 Wildfires have torn through Newberg, Oregon for the past three weeks. Beth Bodeen, an Oregon resident, faced one of these large wildfires in her own front yard. (Photo used with permission of Beth Bodeen) (Second photo is an airplane dumping water on the fire)

The West Coast is facing extreme hardship in their battle with wildfires. Beth Bodeen, farm owner in Newberg, Oregon, has faced these wildfires firsthand for the past three weeks. The Bald Peak fire tore through trees not even a quarter of a mile away from Bodeen’s property. A single campfire ignited over 875 acres of land. 

Wildfire evacuations are done through levels, Level 1: Prepare to evacuate, Level 2: Prepare to leave at a moment’s notice, Level 3: Leave immediately. When level 3 is in place, the county sheriff will go door-to-door alerting residents to leave. This system is very important and well known to residents of wildfire-prone areas. 

Bodeen knew the threat was real when she heard firefighters saying the fire was jumping Mountain Top Road, the divider of the north and south side of the mountain, with Bodeen’s property located on the south side of the mountain.

Bodeen and her family started preparing for the worst. They got their horses packed up and safely to a friend’s house in the valley, her aunt and brother came up to help pack up personal belongings and evacuate with Bodeen’s kids. “We just started grabbing important stuff, birth and marriage certificates, pictures off the walls, old pictures in the closets from when my parents were little, we were just throwing stuff in boxes getting stuff ready to go”, said Bodeen over the phone. 

Bodeen’s two cats, two kids, and irreplaceable belongings were safe with her aunt and brother on their way into town away from the fire. 

Shoes by the door, belongings packed up and the front door opened, the first night of the fire was an anxious waiting game for Bodeen. She was prepared for the sheriff’s knock on the door in the middle of the night, ready to be gone in a matter of minutes. This was very important because of the close proximity of the fire. 

Bodeen said, “If the winds did change we more than likely would not have gotten a level 1 or 2 notice for evacuation, we took it upon ourselves to be ready”. 

After a sleepless terrifying night, Bodeen sat in an “emotional daze” sitting in her house trying to process the very intense threat of this fire. Later that afternoon the fire had once again jumped to their side of the mountain. Bodeen was left once again sitting and waiting to see if they needed to evacuate.

That night Bodeen looked out at her neighbor’s property to see excavators and bulldozers cutting fire lines to try and prevent the flames from jumping. Listening to the police scanner on her phone Bodeen heard the firefighters call for airdrops. 

Soon Bodeen and her dad could see airplanes full of water from a local lake dumping massive amounts of water trying to extinguish the fire. With a little bit of ease, Bodeen went to bed that night hoping for some sleep. Instead, she was awoken to the overpowering smell of smoke. Winds had died down that night allowing for the smoke to settle in. 

After a day of clearing the yard of branches and other flammable materials, Bodeen said, “I don’t have asthma or lung problems, my throat hurt, and I could feel it [smoke] in my lungs.”

As of now, the fire is not fully extinguished. Bodeen said she still hears fire trucks going up and down the mountain to put out any trees that have reignited.  After three weeks of this madness and some level 2 evacuation notices still in place, Bodeen decided to bring her kids home and start to put pictures and belongings away.  

Being an Oregon native Bodeen is no stranger to wildfires, but she has never experienced one this close to her home. 

One thought on “First-Hand Account of the Bald Peak Wildfire

  1. Very powerful piece of work, I had tingles going down my spine when I read this. I felt like I was there when all this was happening. Great work.

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