Team Rubicon has returned to help the residents of Otis recover following the 2020 Echo Mountain wildfire.
Here are details from their post:
When our team first deployed to Otis in late August, about 135 families who had been displaced by the Echo Mountain fire had returned to their Otis properties, but more than 160 families continued to live elsewhere. Some lived in hotels, shelters, or temporary rentals, others with friends and family, according to the Newport News-Times. While some families have returned home since then, many continue to live elsewhere, unsure of their next steps.
TR Onward in Otis Incident Commander Robert Marshall says Greyshirts (our highly skilled volunteers of veterans and civilians) returned to Otis because the recovery endures: Fire-damaged trees block access to properties or remain standing, at risk of toppling on homes or people.
“When Operation Echo Mountain ended, there was still a lot of work to be done in Otis. That didn’t sit well with our Pacific Northwest leadership team. We had to come back.”
Responders include teams of sawyers (chainsaw operators) to remove dead, down, and down-hazard trees from multiple properties. Other volunteers work to clear and remove organic debris. An incident command team also works off-site to coordinate site investigation, perform administrative work, and lead planning and logistics. The team includes a full-time volunteer cook to feed the hard-working crews.
Cascade Relief Team (CRT) has been a critical part of the Otis recovery since the 2020 fire. The group was founded and is led by Executive Director Marc Brooks. CRT continues to serve the community by operating a survivors-only resource center in the local grange.
“You may drive down Highway 18, see a couple burnt trees and think ‘Oh, yeah, there was a fire here a couple years ago.’ What you don’t see is the ongoing fire survivor needs in the residential communities a short drive off of highway. The need is still great.” Brooks says disaster recovery takes at least five years, on average. "We’re two-and-a-half years in, and we have a long way to go. That’s why Team Rubicon’s return to Otis is so important. They didn’t forget Otis. They came back.”
Team Rubicon’s assistance was first requested by the Lincoln County Long-Term Recovery Group (LTRG) a non-profit collective of community-based and faith organizations devoted to recovering from disaster and building community resilience in Lincoln County.
“Team Rubicon’s first visit to Lincoln County generated awareness and an additional 30 requests for assistance,” says LTRG Executive Director Allyson West. “The success of TR’s first operation also sparked interest from additional partner organizations like Oregon Housing and Community Services and Catholic Charities of Oregon. We’re proud to connect these great organizations with our community members.”
West reminds residents in the area that assistance with tree and organic debris removal will be available beyond TR’s current deployment. Assistance requests can be submitted using forms on the Long-Term Recovery Group website and Facebook page.
CALL FOR VOLUNTEERS
Communities around the world are rapidly becoming aware of the valuable contributions of TR. Greyshirts are being deployed to support people in their own communities and beyond. But the need for TR goes beyond the capacity of our current volunteer base.
Incident Commander Marshall, lead of the Team Rubicon’s Salem-Eugene area, which includes Lincoln County, says opportunities to serve stretch far and wide, but some of the most satisfying work is done in Greyshirts’ own backyards. “In the Pacific Northwest, we’re really making fire mitigation and recovery a priority. You don’t have to deploy for a week, you can deploy for a couple days to a community close to home, one that you may have a close connection to. It’s just as rewarding as traveling to the other side of the country, but doesn't require the larger time commitment.”
One of Team Rubicon’s guiding principles is “Everyone has a role” and there’s aways a need for diversity among our volunteer base. “We need people a wide variety of skillsets and physical abilities, vets and civilians alike. There’s one requirement, and that’s a commitment to serve,” said Marshall.
Source: Team Rubicon