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Protecting two cemeteries in the path of a fire

November 19, 2020

Written by Tony Saunders, Bureau of Land Management Archaeologist

Image courtesy of Bureau of Land Management.

That’s why the wins you do get feel so good.

It may be obvious, but wildfires are chaotic things.  And in spite of countless organization charts, plans, and alternative procedures, the efforts to combat those fires are equally chaotic.  Decisions in the initial attack phase are made at a thousand miles per hour.  As a Resource Advisor, someone who advocates for the various natural, economic, and cultural resources that may be impacted by both the fire and fire suppression, it is a challenge to simply keep apace of all the decisions being made and how they affect the resources.  You’re frequently playing catch up, only hearing about a resource after it has been impacted.  It’s not a job that offers many wins.

Image courtesy of Bureau of Land Management.

That’s why the wins you do get feel so good. As the Slater Fire was advancing its way north past the Oregon-California Border, no one knew where or when we would be able to stop it.  Square in the path of the fire were two important heritage sites; the Allentown and Waldo Cemeteries.  Both sites are in heavily forested areas that were vulnerable to fire.  Fortunately, Resource Advisors from the BLM and the Forest Service were available to mitigate the risk to these sites.  Going out ahead of the fire, archaeologists were able to structurer wrap the headstones at these two cemeteries, protecting headstones that date back to the 1860’s. 

Waldo and Allentown were some of the first towns in Oregon.  Dating back to 1852, these sites were early boom towns tied to the gold rush.  At one point, Waldo was the county seat of Josephine County.  The towns were abandoned after the gold rush petered out in southern Oregon, and the cemeteries are all that remains of these two towns. 

As of this writing, the two cemeteries are safe from the fire.  Both are on public lands and available for public viewing, but visitors are advised to stay away from the area until it is deeped safe by authorities.  

One Comment leave one →
  1. November 19, 2020 11:53 am

    Glad I was able to photograph the markers at Waldo last summer. I’m doubly glad that they are unharmed!

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