Year in Review: Residents get snowed in, then smoked out after fires engulf state
The year 2017 started out in a wet, icy lull, as nearly a foot of snow during the first week of January left Columbia County and the Portland metro area covered in snow and ice for more than a week afterward.
While some welcomed the year's first snowfall, the enthusiasm eventually turned to restlessness as commuters watched weather reports daily to gauge road conditions and check for snow or freezing rain.
Roads were icy and slick, causing school district officials in Scappoose and St. Helens to cancel school for nine consecutive school days. The
snow day cancellations made for an extended school year with extra days tacked on in June.
Aside from schools, government centers and some businesses also closed during the icy weather, citing safety concerns. Workers in many industries lost work days and pay as a result of businesses staying closed during the inclement weather and construction projects being paused.
County firefighters dispatched to fight conflagrations
The 2017 fire season has been highly active across the West Coast, and Columbia County firefighters have been mobilized to serve numerous conflagrations starting in August and
running through December.
Most recently, a crew of 14 firefighters with four apparatus returned from a two-week mobilization in Southern California where the firefighters battled a series of destructive, fast-moving blazes in San Bernardino, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.
Columbia County firefighters were also mobilized in August, September, October and December to assist the Oregon State Fire Marshal's Office Incident Management Team with blazes throughout Oregon.
At the start of the fire season, crews were dispatched to the Milli Fire in Deschutes County in August, which burned more than 12,000 acres and prompted hundreds of people to evacuate the area. The fire was caused by lightning. Crews primarily worked with homeowners in the area to protect structures during their mobilization, but several hot shot crews also helped with burnout activities.
In September, crews were dispatched to the Columbia River Gorge to fight the Eagle Creek Fire, which ultimately spanned 48,000 acres, destroyed several buildings, and for a time threatened structures in the area, including the historic Multnomah Falls Lodge. The human-caused fire was only recently declared 100 percent contained in late November, meaning no further growth was expected, but some smoldering inside
the perimeter was still possible.
In the months following, Columbia County crews were also called to massive blazes in California.