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home : current news : current news September 20, 2017

9/5/2017 11:58:00 AM
Road guards inform and protect
Susan Skakel mans her post on Forest Road 15, part of the Milli Fire closure area. photo by Cody Rheault
+ click to enlarge
Susan Skakel mans her post on Forest Road 15, part of the Milli Fire closure area. photo by Cody Rheault

By Cody Rhealt

As the Milli Fire grew over the past couple weeks, so has the number of road closures. With an increase in closures comes the need to provide security, protection, and information for locals and visitors. And road guards play a key role in this process.

A road closure is put in place when a wildfire poses a threat to residents. And it helps prevent them from accidentally stumbling into firefighting operations. To provide protection and safety, authorities will post people at key points leading to a hazardous area. Law enforcement, ODOT, county road department, or U.S. Forest Service personnel are among those tasked with guarding these roads.

During Level 3 evacuations, law enforcement is staffed at roads leading to neighborhoods, ensuring the security of people's evacuated homes and properties.

The role of a road guard is one of protection and informing the public. Often times, they are a fire management team's first level of interaction with the public, and a first line of defense between them and firefighting operations.

Susan Skakel, a road guard and resident of Bend, works 12-hour shifts watching the roads.

"It's a little like public affairs," she said.

Making a good impression, in what may be someone's first interaction with the fire, is important to her.

On a temporary hiatus from her job as an environmental planner with Forest Service, she works with fire officials in enforcing safety and assisting people with any questions they might have or those needing alternative route information.

"People think we're here to only stop people from sneaking across, but we're here more to help people understand, as well as protect them and homeowners," she said.

Susan is well versed in the current conditions of the fire and provides people information about alternate routes and fire status. As well as providing access for residents closer to the fire.

Skakel isn't a wildland firefighter, but she appreciates her role with the public.

"I enjoy meeting all the people and getting to know them," she said. "I love Sisters and wish there was no harm from the fire. It's really sad to see."

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