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Clatsop firefighters face scenes of devastation in California

Oregon offered relief to local crews whose resources had been spread thin
By R.J. Marx

The Daily Astorian

Published on October 26, 2017 7:19AM

Seaside firefighters gather to team with departments from throughout the West.

Seaside Fire and Rescue

Seaside firefighters gather to team with departments from throughout the West.

Seaside firefighters head to California.

Seaside Fire and Rescue

Seaside firefighters head to California.

Seaside’s Katie Bulletset on the scene of wildfires in Santa Rosa, California.

Seaside Fire and Rescue

Seaside’s Katie Bulletset on the scene of wildfires in Santa Rosa, California.

Seaside firefighters join crews fighting in Santa Rosa.

Gearhart Fire and Rescue

Seaside firefighters join crews fighting in Santa Rosa.

Gearhart firefighters join the Clatsop County Task Force in fighting California wildfires.

Gearhart Fire and Rescue

Gearhart firefighters join the Clatsop County Task Force in fighting California wildfires.

Area of the Santa Rosa fires.

Submitted Photo

Area of the Santa Rosa fires.

Gearhart Fire after a shift in California.

Gearhart Fire and Rescue

Gearhart Fire after a shift in California.

Area firefighters respond to wildfires in Santa Rosa, California.

Seaside Fire and Rescue

Area firefighters respond to wildfires in Santa Rosa, California.


SEASIDE — Imagine the city of Seaside ablaze — and then some.

Santa Rosa, California, a city of more than 175,000, fought blazes on every side, south and east to Sonoma and Napa, one of 12 wildfires burning in eight counties.

“It was one of those things where the whole city was on fire,” Seaside Fire Chief Joey Daniels, among the Clatsop County Strike Force members returning from Santa Rosa, said. “They lost malls, they lost the hospital … It basically took out a whole city.”

“The news does not give it justice,” Gearhart’s Fire Chief Bill Eddy, also a strike force member, said.

In areas where livestock, pets and wild animals caught in the fire perished, “you could definitely smell it,” Eddy said.

“It wasn’t just a physical fire,” Daniels said. “It’s mental fatigue. We all take it personally. When you stand on the hillside and thousands of homes and buildings are gone, when you drive down the freeway and their commercial buildings are burned down on both sides — none of us wants to see somebody devastated like that.”

Daniels was one of five members of the Seaside Fire Department contingent, in addition to Lt. Genesee Dennis, Capt. Mike Smith and firefighters Alex Hernandez and Katie Bulletset.

Gearhart’s crew consisted of Eddy, Tanner Rich, Mike LaLonde and Angels Garcia.

Olney-Walluski Volunteer Fire and Rescue Chief Ron Tyson led the county strike team, joined by volunteers from Lewis and Clark, Knappa and Columbia River Fire in addition to those from Seaside and Gearhart.


Firefighters step up


The Oregon Fire Marshal received the request for assistance through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, a national state-to-state mutual aid system, late at night on Oct. 10.

Crews were mobilized and on their way down Interstate 5 the next day, Daniels said, about a 15-hour trip.

Clatsop County firefighters worked with the more than 4,200 firefighters in the Santa Rosa region, sleeping in tents outside the Sonoma County Fairgrounds.

Oregon firefighters offered relief to local crews whose resources had been spread thin.

Some local firefighters had been working shifts of three or four days straight, Daniels said.

Crews cleared brush fires and put out hot spots in an effort to contain blazes driven by the wind, reaching speeds of 60 mph at times.

“Until the wind dies down you are just trying to keep it at bay, or to redirect it so it does not take out more,” Daniels said. “They just had an awful wind.”


Turning the tide


It wasn’t until rain fell overnight, Thursday into Friday, that crews could begin cleaning up the last hot spots.

“They were glad to see it,” Daniels said. “And boy, they got some rain.”

With help from precipitation, Oregon firefighters demobilized and returned after 11 days in California.

Eddy and Daniels returned Saturday.

As of Tuesday, the Tubbs fire in and around Santa Rosa was 94 percent contained, Cal Fire reported, but not before growing to more than 36,000 acres.

The fire killed 22 people, destroyed 7,000 homes and buildings and damaged another 500. Five percent of homes were destroyed and damage reached more than $1 billion in Santa Rosa alone.

This summer, California sent resources to Oregon to fight blazes in the Chetco Bar Fire in Brookings and the Eagle Creek Fire in the Columbia Gorge. They joined teams from as far away as Victoria, a state in Australia.

“Everybody helps support everybody else,” Eddy said.

“Firefighters are firefighters,” Daniels added. “We all do the same job.”











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