November 23, 2020

Fire Chief Chris Heppel: This was our wakeup call

Fire Forum Oct. 29

The Fire Forum Oct. 29 featured Fire Chief Chris Heppel, Deputy Chief Amy Linder, and FUSEE's Tim Ingalsbee.

“For me as the fire chief of Eugene-Springfield Fire, the reality for me was, it can happen here.”

Eugene-Springfield Fire Chief Chris Heppel shared his first-hand experience of the Holiday Farm Fire in a forum sponsored by the Neighborhood Leaders Council.

Listen to the KEPW story here

“This is the wakeup call,” he said. “This is the weather event… If our ignition source would have been in the Lowell-Dexter area on that night with those same precipitating factors, we could have very easily been fighting this fire off of Spencer Butte. Off Willamette Street. Fox Hollow. We could have very easily been into that area.”

Chief Heppel marveled at the fire’s sheer speed downriver, and the fire behavior.

“Reflect back, get a map and say, ‘Wow. A fire traveled 20 miles in 15 hours.’ And that is just unbelievable,” Chief Heppel said. “Not only that, it was within the McKenzie River Valley which is, it’s a lot of green trees. They shouldn’t burn. The McKenzie River is right there, which is a lot of humidity… It was unprecedented. Ivy burning within three inches of the McKenzie River, which is radiating humidity? Folks, that should not have happened.”

Chief Heppel made the remarks during the Question and Answer portion of the Fire Forum. The forum also included Eugene Springfield Deputy Chief Amy Linder and Tim Ingalsbee, executive director of Firefighters United for Safety, Ethics, and Ecology.

The complete two-hour fire forum is available on YouTube in four segments:

Part 1:  Eugene / Springfield Fire Chief Chris Heppel

Part 2:  Deputy Chief / Fire Marshal Amy Linder   

Part 3:  FUSEE Executive Director Tim Ingalsbee

Part 4:  David Monk asks audience questions

The slide presentations are also available online.