There’s no more iconic Oregon photo than the shot Brennan Garrelts caught of his wife, Brianne, leading his 6-year-old daughter, Taylor, across a log spanning a forest stream on a hot summer’s day.
Garrelts had frequently visited this shady spot on Rock Creek outside of the town of Glide and off of the North Umpqua for more than a decade. The forest is a patchwork of private and federally owned lands.
“It’s a very popular recreation place for families,” he says. “The road follows the creek for 10 miles and there are probably a dozen places where families can go and cool off and spend time together.”
Tragically, the scene was much different the next time Garrelts was there. It was September and Garrelts, who is Fire Suppression and Prevention Manager for Lone Rock Resources, saw the stream blackened by the Archie Creek Fire, one of the post-Labor Day mega fires that burned more than one million acres of Oregon forests.
“It was gut-wrenching and absolutely devastating to see such a beautiful place…to just see it like that,” Garrelts says.
Even more gut-wrenching: “Going home and telling my wife and daughters that we’d likely never be going back to a place that we had grown to love because of the danger of hazard trees and the brush that’s going to come back. My family, especially my daughters, took it pretty hard.”
Because of how hot the fire burned, Garrelts estimates it will take a while for trees to make their way back to these lands absent a concerted restoration effort on federal forestland.
“The hardwoods will come back but not a dominate conifer stand for a while,” he says. “This is why a robust recovery effort is so important. It means reforesting and restoring these forests for future generations. That’s what we’re doing on our private forestlands and it’s a shame we don’t see that happening more on federal forests.”
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