More than 75 active large wildfires are burning in the U.S. right now with 3.7 million acres engulfed in flame, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. Wildfires have killed several people, destroyed property, forced people to evacuate and made the air quality poor across the West Coast. The home of Jesse Erickson, a glazier living in Berry Creek, Calif., was destroyed by the North Complex fire on September 9.
“The fire exploded in size from wind and went through Berry Creek. It destroyed pretty much everything in town,” he says. “I had the place for five years and had put a lot of work into it.”
Erickson began his glazing career with Creative Shower Door 18 years ago. Since then, he has spent time at Pacific Glazing Contractors and Permasteelisa, but last worked at Creative before breaking his back in summer 2019.
Erickson was living at the property in Berry Creek to care for his father, who had suffered a recent accident and brain injury. Now, nothing is left of their home. A GoFundMe page has been set up to assist Erickson with rebuilding his home.
Kris Iverson, marketing and creative director or Moon Shadow Glass, located in Sandy, Ore., says the Riverside wildfire was only 8 miles from his company’s location. His company was prepared to evacuate if the fire came closer.
“We also had one of our employees on level three, which means leave now, so he was displaced from his home for two weeks. Lucky for us the winds died on Thursday, September 10, which caused the fire to slow down almost to a stop and we weren’t evacuated. The air quality here was really bad and we had to shut down from September 10-16 until we could get an air scrubber installed in our shop,” says Iverson. “We came back to work on the 16th and have been pretty much back up and running full force since. On the 17th we got a huge rainstorm (dropped about ¾ inches of rain) which helped with the air quality a lot. Since then it has been pretty good but we do get an occasional unhealthy rating when the west winds die down.”
Iverson adds that the situation pushed Moon Shadow Glass’ delivery times back two weeks, but that clients have understood and deliveries are now moving faster.
To prepare for wildfire, Iverson says his team backed up their files to the server so that if they did have to leave they could just shut it down and take it with them.
“The other thing we were told by the fire department was to take and large flammable materials like propane tanks (for our forklifts) with us to help minimalize explosions [that could cause] larger fires,” he explains. “We also made sure all the brush and weeds were cut back 10 feet from the building to help too. Since we are in a steel building, we were less likely to have it actually catch on fire but there could be melting due to the extreme heat.”
Shannon McKinney, owner of DT Glass in Oregon City, Ore., says a quarter of her employees were affected by evacuation orders.
“We were concerned as there was the potential they could lose everything,” she says. “After they moved their belongings many returned to work to keep their minds busy. Everything ended up being okay but two of our employees’ homes were right there and they thought they could lose their homes at any minute.”
McKinney says her company’s first priority was caring for its employees. DT Glass was in what she called a “get ready zone” but no evacuation ended up being required.
Casey Anderson, marketing manager for ICD High Performance Coatings in Ridgefield, Wash., says the main issue the company faced was poor outdoor air quality from September 9-17.
“We ran extra filtration fans to improve indoor air quality and kept loading dock bay doors closed as much as possible. Since the 17th, it’s rained a few times and the air quality has greatly improved,” she says. “…Fortunately, none of our employees were personally affected by the fires, but we all seem to know someone who experienced an evacuation warning or actually had to evacuate. There was definitely a sense of community with people offering space in their homes for those who needed to flee. ICD did not experience any delivery delays, nor heard of any project impacts.”
Bagatelos Architectural Glass Systems, which has offices in Sacramento, Calif., and Corona, Calif., had to shut down jobs on two different occasions due to the poor air quality, according to CEO Chris Bagatelos.
Jeff Heymann, vice president of Benson Industries in Portland, Ore., says that while his company wasn’t impacted, 15 employees and their families in Oregon were displaced due to evacuation orders.
“Thankfully, no one has had property loss,” he says.