LINCOLN CITY, Ore. — On the first night of the Echo Mountain Fire Complex and then again on the second night, North Lincoln Fire & Rescue Chief Rob Dahlman made the call for the department’s firefighters to stop fighting the fire and to concentrate on helping people evacuate.
Although the complex that ignited the night of Sept. 7 east of Lincoln City, Ore., would eventually grow to 2,552 acres, destroying 293 residences, damaging 40 others and blackening numerous outbuildings and cars, there was no loss of human life.
“I knew we weren’t going to stop the fire,” Dahlman said.
The howling wind each night fanned the flames and greatly increased the fire’s ability to jump ahead with flying embers.
So Dahlman, firefighters and law enforcement officers pounded on doors in the rural area, waking people and telling them of the severity of the fire. A Level 3 evacuation order was also sent out on the Lincoln County alert system.
“All you had to do was point at the glow in the sky,” Dahlman said of warning residents. “Nobody said no, we’re staying. It’s a credit to everybody that although 293 residences burned, there was not a single loss of life.”
After the fire was under control, a woman called the department and said if firefighter Cody Peterson “had not pounded on the door as hard as he did, we would have lost our lives.”
Dahlman called for additional firefighting manpower, but only a brush rig from Depoe Bay and an engine from Dallas managed to arrive on scene. A couple other engines were blocked by downed trees and in one case, a falling tree injured a firefighter so that engine had to turn around and head to a hospital.
Since firefighters and equipment were already involved with other fires around the state, the North Lincoln crew of 30 firefighters received limited help. Local construction business owners, Nathan and Ryan Knott, did join the fire fight with their heavy equipment and built fire trails around several residences.
“We’re a combination department, paid and volunteer,” Dahlman said. “One side couldn’t do it without the other side. They came together to do whatever needed to be done to get this fire under control.”
Dahlman said two engines and the crews teamed up at one critical spot, knocking down the flames and preventing the fire from advancing into Lincoln City.
“There were a lot of people that did a lot of hard work to save lives and save properties,” said Dahlman. “Don’t thank me, thank the firefighters.”