KEVIN AND TODD  Loggers heading to the disaster zone in Oso.
  • Kelly O
  • KEVIN AND TODD Loggers heading to the disaster zone in Oso.

Yesterday, at a gas station and general store east of the Oso mudslide disaster, I meet Todd Shirley and his logging partner Kevin. Both are heading to the mudslide site to cut trees. Both, they tell me, were dispatched by Washington State Department of Natural Resources. Kevin, the one in the hat, is filling canisters with gas. Huge chainsaws are on the bed of the pickup truck. Todd explains that this is his first time into the zone. He doesn’t know what to expect. But he is confident that whatever he sees, it will boggle him.

“There should be a timber-cutting boss when get there, directing on us on what to do,” Todd says. “They will tell us to either block a flow or open a flow. We do not know which it will be out there. We are not even sure if we are cutting trees down or cutting stuff that has fallen down.” Todd is from the area and so, like everyone else from the area, has friends out there, in the mud.

On asking if he had done anything like this before, he explains: “We usually do forest fires. 110 degrees, 115 degrees—that kind of thing. We are usually cutting standing timber that's on fire. But this time we are dealing with the exact opposite. It's wet out there. Just raining. We are not used to [that kind of disaster]. There might be cars in the trees. There might be people in the trees. From the map they showed us, we are looking at some tall timber. It could be a nightmare.”

On asking what he personally hopes to accomplish in the disaster zone: “I hope we can still save a life. But I also hope we can save some animals. More likely if I come across a person, they will not..." He can not complete the sentence. "It’s not something you want to see. But someone has to do it.”