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Winter is here; fire’s effects linger

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The calendar says Thanksgiving is next week and winter is around the corner. But the aftermath of Oregon’s wildfires will stay with us through this new season and beyond.

Many of our neighbors, friends and family members lost homes and businesses in the Almeda and South Obenchain Fires. Evaluations and debriefs of what worked and what didn’t in response to the chaos of September 8 will come.

In the meantime, recovery is underway. For ODOT that includes replacing burnt guardrail and signs, removing imminent hazard trees from highways, including Interstate 5 and Oregon 99.

Last month, the Oregon Legislature set aside funds and tasked ODOT with overseeing Step 2 of fire debris removal. Because of our contracting experience on large projects, we’ll have oversight on the contractors who’ll remove debris from burned properties. We’ve pulled managers and experts from their daily duties to help with this important reconstruction which could take up to 18 months.

We’re also evaluating Oregon 99 between Phoenix and south Medford for needed upgrades to assist in the recovery of this area that was decimated by the fire, losing nearly every single residence and business in the corridor. Future improvements may see the beginning of continuous sidewalks, bike lanes and crosswalks.

On Oregon 138 East, the ravages of the Archie Creek and Thielsen Fires will be watched for falling trees, landslides and roadside ‘pop-outs’ after winter rains and snow.

For all of us, safe winter driving preparation is key. Snow tires, chains, wipers and a well-serviced vehicle will help get us through on our everyday trips or visits for the holidays, even with COVID-19. Information available at Tripcheck.com in Oregon and Quickmap in California will again be a traveler’s best friend.

Finally, as you’ll read inside, our crews will be ready with our usual winter tools of plows, sand and, when needed on Interstate 5, a sprinkling of salt. To be successful, winter travel is a team activity.

We’re prepared – we hope you’ll be prepared as well!

« Back to the November 2020 edition