I can hardly believe that is has been several weeks already! Some days it feels like months ago, but other times it seems like just last night. However, each time that I close my eyes, I can see, smell and hear the horrific events of that night. The nightmares are increasing, I am sleeping very little, and probably need to pursue counseling. This is why: on the evening of May 21st, 2014, we lost part of our farm to a disaster that we were not prepared for, and honestly had not given enough thought to: a terrible fire. This fire destroyed our shop and barn, and damaged outbuildings, gardens, the orchard and our home. We lost our Silver Fox rabbit does and their kits. The dairy goats are all okay, as are the poultry and their houses, but most of the farm’s infrastructure, implements and tools, and literally everything besides the majority of the home was destroyed or damaged. All machinery, tools, supplies, and surplus resources, except what we had in the garage, are gone. The fire took our ATVs, lawnmowers, saw mill, and workshops for archery, reloading, woodworking and canning. Some of Patrick’s equipment for his business was in his truck, but the rest of it is lost. All hunting and camping equipment, all holiday items and seasonal wares, and so much more that we haven’t considered yet is gone, and damages and loss assessment will take some time. Some items not burned completely have been damaged in the firefighting efforts or melted due to heat, including an SUV, and the boat.
Although the house is very livable, spared by the cement fiberboard siding, there is some minor damage and a mild odor. The door to the attached garage kept the fire out even as it melted and some water was driven inside, but we don’t expect damage to the contents – except a freezer that stopped working after trying to deal with such increased moisture on the cement floor. Our neighbor and dear friend, Dale Tofte, lost two of his outbuildings and their contents, including his own ATV, lawnmower and tools, etc. He is the neighbor who alerted me to the fire just in time to call for help before the transformer and phone lines went down. Dale attempted to stop the fire’s spread with an extinguisher, but the fire was burning from within the shop; and with the power down there was no water pressure even as he drug hoses around. What an indescribable feeling of utter helplessness to hold a limp hose toward a raging fire… and no water flows. My older son, Damon, sprang into action and tried to move ATV’s, but when the fire grew intensely and rapidly and a burning timber nearly fell on him, he gave up the effort. When propane tanks and welding equipment started to explode in the shop, we woke the other children and evacuated to the far side of the property, with Dale doing his best to keep the 3 Labradors from getting in the way of the firemen and their equipment.
From our vantage point, the fire appeared to be consuming all of the structures, and though terrified, Damon and I worked together to calm and distract the kids (my younger son, Killian, as well as the two young girls in our care that night) and once the bulk of the fire was contained, I was briefly escorted into the house to retrieve blankets, snacks and books to further aid our efforts to keep calm. We alternated between time sitting on the lawn or in a rescue truck, at times praying or singing or just petting the dogs. After 3 hours, and during a shuffle of the numerous fire trucks, they retrieved one vehicle from the driveway and I was escorted in again to grab one more armful amid smoke and darkness: shoes, coats, teddy bears… and a brooder box of newly hatched chicks that traveled with us to the hotel… along with one dog who insisted she keep watch over the kids! The fire trucks were held up long enough for us to get down our half mile gravel road and make our way into town to meet up with the Red Cross. As we came to the paved road, we were amazed to see tanker trucks lined up, waiting their turn to deliver water to the scene of the fire. Neighbors reported that the crews filled up tankers in the river well into the night. In the end, our reassurance and peace is knowing that the items and buildings can be replaced, and we are all truly unharmed and okay!
The continual show of support and concern from our family, friends, and neighbors overwhelm us with an endearing sense of community. We are sad and shocked right now, but time will heal. One day at a time. Here is a press release about the fire, and of Dale’s heroic actions. I am ever grateful to this dear friend who helped me through this and shared my initial shock and grief. Patrick and Dale have been best friends for most of their lives, with Dale joining us here in Clatskanie as our next door neighbor a couple of years ago. THANK YOU, Dale!! We will all repair and rebuild together.