By BROOKE SNAVELY
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY
Volunteer photographers and pilots with the Civil Air Patrol are busy flying over Oregon’s wildfires taking “damage assessment” pictures.
So far, the Civil Air Patrol has flown 30 sorties from Salem, Medford and Redmond.
After takeoff from the Redmond Airport, we cruised south at 7,500 feet for an hour to Paisley, a Lake County town that was evacuated due to the Brattain Fire.
The fire blackened the hills right down to the edge of the town.
“We have a camera person on board who is trained and qualified to take photographs,” said pilot Mike Wissing. “We get 1,000 feet above the damage assessment area and we try to take photographs on each cardinal head, so that’s north, south, east and west and then one overhead. This is pretty typical of what CAP does for disaster management.”
Today’s mission was to take pictures of five targets.
To get into position to take pictures, the pilot tilted the plane 45 degrees while banking through a series of sharp turns at 85 miles per hour.
In a 25 mile per hour cross wind, it made for a bumpy ride.
“Today we were taking pictures of microwave towers, of a water reservoir and other assets in the area of Paisley,” said Faye Phillips, a volunteer photographer. “I did not see anything that appeared to be damaged.”
The Civil Air Patrol is the official auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force.
Its volunteers are trained to respond to non-military domestic threats.
Right now, the Civil Air Patrol is helping state and federal emergency managers assess wildfire damage and plan appropriate responses.
“The last 7 or 8 days we’ve been going like crazy taking pictures all over the state. They’ve kind of been running us ragged,” said John Womack, a mission observer.
The Civil Air Patrol’s Oregon Wing has nearly 300 volunteers who train to FEMA standards to help in emergencies such as the wildfires that have burned more than a million acres and displaced thousands of Oregonians.