Off-road vehicle enthusiasts recover cars, semis stuck in snow across Oregon

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Amid snowstorm, volunteers recovered hundreds of vehicles from the side of the road for free

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A network of off-road vehicle enthusiasts in Oregon who help coordinate recoveries of stranded vehicles stepped up their efforts during the recent snow storm to recover hundreds of vehicles stuck in the snow on the side of the road for free.

It was all made possible thanks to Offroad Portal, a website app created by software developer and fellow off-road enthusiast Alvaro Fontan.

Fontan, who is also the webmaster and software architect of Pamplin Media Group, told KOIN 6 News he created the site to help the off-road community help people who are stranded, and all completely for free (Pamplin Media Group is also a sponsor of Offroad Portal).

“We usually engage when the recovery is so bad that it’s people stranded in a place where, you know, they don’t have cell phone connection or they don’t have a way to connect to a towing company or…you know, the towing companies sometimes call us and say you guys can take care of this one,” Fontan explained.

Alvaro Fontan, Co-Founder of Offroad Portal. February 18, 2021 (KOIN).

The network connects about 1,000 fully equipped members across Oregon and southern Washington that can be dispatched when a recovery is requested. People can submit a request ticket to their website or by texting the request and GPS location to 503-877-5263.

Fontan said they’ve helped over 180 vehicles in the last year, prior to the recent snow storm. Fontan began the site a year ago after migrating the group off of a Facebook group in order to streamline the recovery ticketing system.

Fontan said usually volunteers do not do recoveries in bigger cities, but work outside city limits. The service is not meant to compete with tow companies, but is instead meant for stranded vehicles that are outside the normal range of tow trucks, like rural off-road recreation areas.

However, they make an exception during times like the recent ice and snow storms that occurred in Oregon with many vehicles struggling to maintain traction underneath their tires.

Fontan said around 60 volunteers from the group worked on recoveries free to the public, from Thursday Feb. 11 through Sunday Feb. 14, from Forest Grove all the way to Troutdale. They rescued more than 369 vehicles combined, 17 of which were semi-trucks, Fontan said. They also gave 35 jumps. The people they helped included local authorities and local delivery trucks.

“The towing companies sometimes call us and say you guys can take care of this one.”

Alvaro Fontan, co-founder of offroad portal

“We also got contacted by Providence Hospitals when they were in need of transporting health workers from and to their hospitals. We also got people to get medicine, provided gas, wood and food to elders who couldn’t drive themselves,” Fontan said.

Volunteers worked more than 24 hours straight Friday Feb. 12 through Saturday Feb. 13, when most of the recoveries happened, Fontan said.

The group also helped out during the flooding event in eastern Oregon last year, as well as during historic wildfires that ravaged the state beginning Labor Day last year. Both times, off-roaders worked to recover people and animals seeking evacuation.

Offroad Portal is a non-profit that operates through donations, for which there is a Patreon page if people would like to give monthly donations. In addition, Fontan said the group is sponsored by Warn Industries, a Clackamas-based manufacturing company that is known for its winches and other off-road vehicle recovery equipment and accessories.

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