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September 17, 2020: Thoughts on the Fires Around Salem

Salem was in no danger from the fire, though we've overtaken Multnomah County in the number of Covid19 cases, primarily in the northern part of Marion County.

The canyon to the east contains so many former idyllic opportunities, not just for recreation, but for residences and businesses. It is with great sadness that I hear from friends who resided there, but am grateful they were able to escape.

Salem awoke the first day with the view from the Apocalypse, or perhaps the Rapture. Initially a grey sky with the blackness of the trees, it gave the appearance of an old lithograph, it was so stark. The sky soon turned to a fiery orange, but the trees remained a solid black outline against it. I can't imagine what it looked like up in the canyon.

Orange sky

A giant oak silhouetted again an orange sky.

September fires

It's 8:30 in the morning and still dark because of the smoky sky.

It's changed since, the orange became yellow, then grey, and then yesterday, I saw the sun peering through the haze. Air quality has been deemed way beyond hazardous. The forecast of rain, however lightly, has failed to fulfill that wish. Thankfully, the wind of the first few days has died down.

September fire sky

It's three in the afternoon. The lights have come on and the sky has turned grey.

I have continued to work on bikes and packing sold items for shipping in enclosed spaces. I have seen some cyclists out there, both with masks and without. I can't imagine the effort of doing either.

I used to think of wildfires like this as just a part of California and its dense population forcing residences to be a part of geography with that potential. Having it occur this close to my town, brings an awareness that is uncomfortable. How those folks will be able to re-build their lifestyles up there, and live with the fear that it could happen again, would take a greater courage than ever before.

September fire picture

The sun did start start to peer through the haze.

I've seen several photographs of the ruins in Detroit, Mill City and Gates, but the image that remains in my mind of the intensity of this, is the statement that the log boom on Detroit reservoir burned. Logs chained together to prevent boaters from getting too close to the dam, floating in water, burned. The operator of the dam could not escape, and had to hide in the bowels of the dam overnight.

Normalcy will return to Salem after the returning rains, and I will welcome it. Forgetting, for those up the canyon, is not going to be that relief.
Michael Wolfe
South Salem Cycleworks