NVWG Aircrews Help with Oregon Wildfire
Aircrews from Nevada Wing Help Assess Wildfire Damage in OregonCapt Maryan Tooker, Nevada Wing Public Affairs Officer
Although many of us quarantined in 2020, unfortunately wildfires did not. A devastating wildfire season torched the West for several months. In Oregon, multiple wildfires burned 11 million acres and killed 11 people. Additionally, 40,000 people were evacuated, and thousands of homes were destroyed. Severe drought, record heat, extreme winds and multiple ignitions fueled the most destructive wildfires in Oregon state history.
Civil Air Patrol aircraft and crews arrived in Salem, Oregon on Monday, September 21, from Nevada, Washington and California to assist Oregon Wing with their response. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Oregon Emergency Management (OEM) required airborne images to assess the widespread damage and plan for recovery.
The first aircrew from Nevada consisted of Douglas County Composite Squadron members 2d Lt Rob Daniel, Mission Pilot; Lt Col Steven Accinelli, Mission Observer, and Capt Maryan Tooker, Nevada Wing, Airborne Photographer. More than ten CAP aircraft worked the photo missions as weather and firefighting restrictions permitted. Several flights were scheduled for Tuesday, but forecast high winds, severe turbulence, and low-level wind shear forced sortie cancellations.
Capt. Maryan Tooker, Nevada Wing Public Affairs Director, was the CAP airborne photographer on the Nevada aircrew. “While we would rather be flying, we must be able to do it safely,” she said. “This down time allows us to further familiarize ourselves with the target areas and the Oregon landscape. What we have seen in the photographs already taken is devastating, our hearts go out to those displaced from their homes and businesses. We are happy to be part of the initial assessment and early repair and rebuild process.”
The aircrew returned home to Nevada and one week later a second aircrew consisting of 2d Lt Robert Daniel, Mission Pilot, 2d Lt Duane Meyer, Mission Observer, Reno Composite Squadron; and Capt Maryan Tooker, Airborne Photographer. This time the weather was much improved, and they flew a long photo sortie that covered five targets within the MacKenzie/Holiday Farm burn area northeast of Eugene. That wildfire started on September 7 and by containment on October 26, 173,393 acres had burned with 768 structures destroyed, 6 injuries, and 1 fatality.
2d Lt Meyer recounted, “Upon receiving notification of a mission to Oregon to assist with the wildfires, I was very fortunate to be available to respond. I flew with Nevada Wing members 2d Lt Robert Daniel and Capt Maryan Tooker. It was a pleasure to meet and assist in a mission with two members whom I have never met. After taking off from the Minden, NV airport we flew directly to the mission base in Salem, OR. Turns out, we made a great team. We flew one mission and what a tremendous experience it was. Our tasking involved locating several different specific targets within the MacKenzie/Holiday Farm burn area. This was quite challenging for a couple of targets as we maneuvered between mountains to find a specific point that had been impacted by the wildfire. All in all, our sortie was quite successful and a great learning experience. A California Wing aircrew brought a WALDO system with them. WALDO is a tremendous aerial imaging asset. Although we were not in a position to learn all of the intricacies of the system in such a short time, we did talk with the aircrew about it over a nice Thai dinner. There is much more to learn about WALDO so that we can provide a better service to our customers.”
2d Lt Meyer concluded, “I am so thankful to have been in a position to assist the Oregon Wing as we are one Civil Air Patrol, ready to help wherever and whenever we can.”
All Oregon operation Civil Air Patrol participants were awarded the CAP Disaster Relief Ribbon.