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Editorial: Gleneden Beach Fire – It was bad, but it could have been a lot worse!

House going up like a bomb. R Whitlow photo

House going up like a bomb.
R Whitlow photo

The call came into Depoe Bay Fire late Saturday night that there was a house fire in Gleneden Beach that had already nearly engulfed an entire dwelling. And while fire crews were enroute they heard over the radio there was another house already burning – the flames swelling.

Before the voters of the Depoe Bay Fire District approved a recent tax hike to hire more full time firefighters, the first arriving engine may have had to wait for volunteers to show up in order to put up much of a fight against a towering inferno licking at its neighbors. But this time, with fully manned crews the firefighters hit the ground running and got water on the fire very quickly, certainly slowing down the main fire at Sijota and Salal which protected adjoining homes.

Even before responding mutual aid companies from Newport Fire and North Lincoln County Fire could get there, the fully crewed Depoe Bay team had the situation sized up and pretty much knew what they could save and what they couldn’t. Calm, clear orders were given over the radio to arriving Newport and Lincoln City fire units so they could efficiently assume proper strategic positions so they could be as effective as the first arriving Depoe Bay crews. Cool headed professionalism was quite obviously the definition of the situation – all in the face of a sky high wall of flame which the fire crews systematically brought back down to the ground.

Yes there were fatalities. One man was trapped on his second floor. He had to jump. And his landing wasn’t a good one. He perished despite valiant efforts at CPR. Again, with the fully manned professional fire crews of Depoe Bay, everything stayed a lot calmer and more focused because resources were known, were at hand, and were directed calmly and efficiently. There was another distraction – an elderly man walked down the street to watch the fire. He fell – broke his hip. Resources were calmly allocated to get him up-off the ground and into an ambulance. He might have not have even been noticed if only a skeleton crew was facing a fiery monster while still waiting for help from Newport and North Lincoln to arrive.

If there was ever any doubt about whether the voters of the Depoe Bay Fire District should have voted yes to an increase in their property taxes to add more full times firefighters, Saturday night was their clear and firm confirmation that it was the right investment in their community.

But it was also tragic that there were two fatalities – one other resident. The fire moved so fast and burned so hot that the cause is likely to be a doozy. But it…could…have…been…so…much…worse were it not for the full-on power of an immediate full-court press with full time fire fighting professionals beating back flames and beating back fate for residents who were also threatened yet escaped unharmed.

The voters of the Depoe Bay Fire District showed them the MONEY, and Depoe Bay Firefighters are delivering the SERVICE. And much praise and thanks to Newport and North Lincoln Firefighters for delivering the RIGHT STUFF as well.

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