Text Size:   A+ A- A   •   Text Only
Site Image
Fire #111
A fire report submitted on September 9, 1990, by ODF employee Jim Wolf on the #111 Fire near Astoria
Last night at 20:50, Warrenton RFD and ODF were toned out to a brush fire near the jetty at Fort Stevens State Park.  Shortly after arriving in the area, a State Parks 150-gal 4X4 and "Murphy" arrived to assist.
The fire appeared to be burning near the edge of a small bay along the Columbia River.  The Warrenton personnel had not been able to pin down the access to the fire yet.  The Warrenton chief suggested that I ride with him along the beach to get a closer look.  The Park's 4X4 followed.
We rounded the point and could see that the fire was across the bay from us.  I commented to the chief that I couldn't believe that we weren't sinking into the tidal mud.  My lips had hardly stopped flapping when we sank.  We pulled the winch cable from the Park's 4X4 and started to pull.  No use, the chief's truck was stuck.  The worst part was that through the dark night I could see the ruts filling up with water--THE TIDE WAS COMING IN!  The Park employe decided to move to higher ground.  Although he reached vegetation, he too sank.  Now we had two trucks stuck . . . and the fire was still burning.  
When all hope was lost for the chief's truck, all effort was focused on the Park rig.  We came to the conclusion that our only hope was to drain the tank . . .but the starter rope on the pump broke.  Not wanting to go down with a sinking ship, I decided it was time to hike out through the shore to the road and assist in finding the fire access.  By this time the other forestry and Warrenton units had searched out all possible access, including bike trails.  After looking at our aerial photos, we finally came to the conclusion that the fire was burning on a small one-acre island in the middle of the bay with no place to go! 
Focus was again centered on the two stuck rigs.  By now, water was flowing through the chief's rig and was quickly approaching the Park 4X4. The Park operations chief arrived about this time in his boss's 1990 Jeep Cherokee.   He decide to scout a route through the dunes and shore pine to the vehicles with hope to be able to get the Park's backhoe to the scene.
It was now about 23:00.  Most of the Forestry and Warrenton units had been released.  No one had heard from the Jeep for quite some time.  The chief's rig was completely submerged and the Park 4X4 was in about 3 feet of water.  The Astoria forest officer and crew foreman decided to take a hike to find the Jeep.  Forgetting that trouble usually comes in three's and not thinking that the situation could possibly get worse, I wasn't quite prepared for what was about to happen . . . three people came running out of the black night screaming, "THE JEEP'S ON FIRE!!!!."
Sure enough, the Jeep had gotten high-centered on a piece of driftwood and had ignited the grass under it.  We extinguished the fire with only minor damage to the Jeep . . . at least until the operator removed the skid plate with the tow chain.
At 00:30, we decided to go home before anything else could happen.  The vehicles were removed in the morning and the Astoria District has chosen to use a "let-burn" policy for this fire.  The District suffered NO losses.
Jim Wolf is a retired employee from the Oregon Department of Forestry