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Returning to the Canyon: A letter to the Task Force

The 2020 Labor Day fires burned more than a million acres and drastically changed Oregon’s landscape. It’s been over a year since the fires and Debris Management Task Force crews have been working to remove the dead and dying hazard trees along our state highways. As hazard tree work nears completion, a new landscape is starting to take shape.

The damage from the wildfires is still devastating, but through the burn scars residents and travelers are beginning to notice new scenery.

In an email sent to Beachie Creek/Lionshead Fire On-Scene Incident Commander Drake McKee, one Detroit resident shared his observations of the changing landscape:


When exiting off I-5 onto Hwy 22 heading to Detroit, I know I will be entering the Santiam Canyon recent disaster in about 30 minutes. I was headed to our properties in Detroit early. I just passed the Hwy 22 and Hwy 226 interchange when I really started to notice the change to the surroundings. It looked different, like a new life was starting.

It was a cloudy morning and the flaggers weren’t quite ready to start traffic control, which was perfect timing in my book. I had just passed through Gates when the beauty from all the hard work that everyone has put into this project came alive.

By removing all the hazard trees and debris close to the highway, you can see more of what the Santiam Canyon has to offer. You can see further up the highway and around some corners. You can see more of the pristine Santiam River. The beauty of all the rock formations that were hidden, are now enjoyed. The hours that were put into the hillsides along the highway, with workers paying attention to detail, looking for loose rocks and trees that could present a problem for all travelers going to and from, has paid off.

You can tell that ODOT and all agencies who were involved put Safety first, and it shows. I just wanted to say thank you for all your hard work. It is appreciated by many.

Ken & Linda Woodward

Thank you to Mr. and Mrs. Woodward for capturing the beauty that remains post-wildfire and for allowing the Task Force to share your experience.



Wildfire waste and debris removal

The State of Oregon is working with federal, state and local partners to remove hazardous waste, and ash and debris from the 2020 Oregon wildfires safely, efficiently, and as quickly as possible. The Oregon Departments of Transportation, Environmental Quality and Emergency Management are leading the effort, with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency assistance.

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