Landscape taken across a rusty chainlink gate, from a bluff above a swampy lake. It is cloudless but visibility is less than 1 mile with a heavy smoke from wildfires

We are already in the refuge all our neighbors are fleeing to

Published 2020-09-11

Hearing a lot of anxiety from my Portland pals who obsessively refresh the evacuation maps. Relax for a few seconds. Inner Portland is probably the safest place in western Oregon right now.

  • The streets are a grid — easy to get to fires, easy to evacuate.
  • Convention centers to evacuate to.
  • Fire hydrants every two blocks.
  • Fire stations every few miles.
  • Two huge rivers from which to pull water
  • Not least: one hundred square miles of industrial parks, highways, parking lots and railyards separate us from the Riverside/Beachie fires

It isn’t 100% safe (where is?) — the danger is that our own green spaces could catch fire, independently. Elk rock island caught fire twice last night! (This is probably why the parks are closed today). And many Portland firefighters and firefighting gear are on loan to neighboring towns in greater danger. So yes, we are objectively less safe today than we were three days ago. But we are still in the safest place in Oregon.

The thing about this panic that bugs me, friendos, is not that it’s panic per se but that it is so damn selfish. We are already in the refuge our neighbors are fleeing to. Fretting about our own damn go-bags right now feels like an especially acute case of NIMBYism.

Let’s make a little room for compassion in our hearts. Make a little room in our neighborhoods for our fellow humans. And if we can spare the space, make a little room in our homes for friends fleeing from Estacada or Sandy or Canby, into the refuge where we already live.