COVID, wildfire work shines spotlight on DEQ’s Angela Rowland

Before the global pandemic and the Oregon wildfires this year, Angela Rowland was working full-time as a Water Quality Permitting Policy Analyst at the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.

The job she signed up for on Oct. 1, 2019 quickly morphed into something no one could’ve expected. This year, while continuing her water quality program work, she also became one of the most valuable players on DEQ’s COVID-19 and Wildfire Response and Recovery teams.

“Angela has been the absolute guiding star of DEQ’s emergency response planning section and Incident Command team,” according to Kimberlee Van-Patten, who has been leading the planning effort for both the COVID and wildfire responses.

Deployed on April 1 to an Incident Command System team for DEQ’s COVID-19 response efforts, Rowland served as the Resource Unit Leader in the Planning Section. Her research on COVID-19 science-based information meant DEQ could provide accurate updates on the agency’s response to the coronavirus, keep staff safe and continue to protect public health and the environment. Her work included developing new protocols for fieldwork and inspections to determine what essential work could still be performed safely.

On Sept. 15, DEQ set up an Incident Command team for Wildfire Response. “I remember that I was busy collecting data from the COVID-19 staff survey on DEQ’s response when the Labor Day wind storm stirred up the worst Oregon wildfire disaster on record,” Rowland said. She said it was hard to grasp the full scope of the disaster, which left thousands without homes and burned roughly 1.07 million acres of Oregon forests. “My family had a camping trip reserved at Detroit Lake for Labor Day, and our hearts are broken for the town of Detroit (which was destroyed) and all across Oregon,” she said.

She serves as the Documentation Unit Leader in the Planning Section to ensure that every deliverable is tracked and she coordinates the regular “situational updates” to keep all staff informed of the wildfire response and recovery efforts. Rowland said, “I want to provide managers and staff with as much information as possible to help them in their everyday work, be it for COVID-19 precautions or staff getting phone calls from the public who are concerned about asbestos in their burned out home.”

In any crisis, information swarms in from every direction. The need to make sure it goes up the chain of command just as fast requires someone who can create clarity amid chaos. That’s Rowland!

“I see a bright future for Angela Rowland here at DEQ,” Van-Patten says. “We are lucky to have her on our team.”

In her free time she enjoys watching Star Wars, playing board games with her two kids, walking her dogs, camping, gardening, and telling “mom” jokes.

— Jennifer K. Flynt, public affairs specialist

Published by Oregon Department of Environmental Quality

DEQ’s mission is to be a leader in restoring, maintaining and enhancing the quality of Oregon’s air, land and water.

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