In Molalla, Ore., where most of the residents are affiliated with the timber industry in some way, word that there’s a fire on the hill brings out every able body with a truck, water tank or chainsaw.
“At a point it got really dangerous because we just had people driving all over trying to put stuff out,” Matt Meyers said, “I was put in charge of a check-in and dispatch station at our base in order to screen people and use them effectively. There were plenty of locations for them; this was a big chunk of fire.”
From his vantage point on Elk Prairie, Meyers, a utility worker with a logging background, had a bird’s-eye view of the Beachie Creek Fire as it traveled some 14 miles in a day. Even scarier was the night they drove to the end of the road to determine which hot spot to attack the next morning.
“Picture the fire as a big horseshoe we were driving right into the middle of,” he said. “It’s a pretty humbling feeling.”
He said the outpouring of support from local excavation companies, businesses and fellow citizens made it possible for their work to continue through the two grueling weeks. An estimated 1,000-plus volunteers worked in various capacities.
“All of us fighting for the same purpose — that’s the epitome of what rural Oregon is,” Meyers said.
By the time they handed off the fire to the Forest Service they had made quite an impression.
“None of us did it for fame; we’re not trying to toot our horn,” Meyers said, “but when incident command tells us they’ve been doing this for 20 years and in all that time have never seen a community come together and grab a shovel and just go to it like this.…”