Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Forest fire coverage in Capital Press

Past forest fires in the Santiam Pass of Oregon have led to wide swaths of trees gone that are especially evident in winter, as demonstrated by this photo take last winter in the Cascade range.

Idaho’s Gov. C. L. “Butch” Otter declared yesterday a statewide emergency declaration authorizing state government resources to respond to wildfire threats anywhere in Idaho.

On the same day, Capital Press reporter Pat McCoy toured some of the burned areas in Idaho. She left her home in Boise to travel north and talk to some of the people who are affected by the fires: The people who are fighting the fires, but also those who are frustrated by the fires affecting their homes, businesses, property and livestock. She continues to do interviews for the next few days.

People get their news about fires in different ways. They can read a press release with a statement by a governor, or hear on the news the statistics of how many square acres of land has been burned, people evacuated, or value of property destroyed.

For example, as of today, the National Interagency Fire Center reported that the most fires in the country are in Idaho and Montana: “31 large fires burning a total of 1,137,717 acres.” Sixteen of those fires are in Idaho.

Other parts of the West also continue to burn. California has one large fire; Oregon, 4; and Washington, 2.

Meeting face–to-face with the people affected, McCoy has already heard some of the grim stories and frustrations people face.

Finding burned calves and then needing to show mercy by killing them is one of the realities that ranchers face when wildfires attack. It really brings home the impact of fires, and leaves lasting images beyond what any statistics can do.

McCoy is spending a few days visiting these areas and talking to people affected by the fires. She is writing her notes, taking pictures and also taping audio so Capital Press can share what she saw and heard during this trip. We plan to have a package of stories in the Aug. 31 issue, but also carry multimedia coverage online.

We also invite people to email to us fire pictures from their areas (300 dpi would be fine): we would like to show them online or perhaps even in the newspaper. Show us what you see and experience this summer: tell us how these fires have affected you. You can email me at eshein@capitalpress.com.

Best wishes to all those who are fighting fires, but also to those who farms and rural livelihoods are being affected by these challenging events.

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