I would like to express my deep gratitude for the Gearhart Volunteer Fire Department.
On Oct. 8, my wife and I experienced one of the most traumatic nights of our lives. After a relaxing evening with an early season fire in our fireplace and while lying in bed, we heard what we thought was the magnet on the dog door popping back and forth. I have tried to sleep though Maggie’s antics before. She is a very mischievous terrier. After several minutes of negotiation with my wife, Lisa takes the high road and decides to stop Maggie from making noise with the dog door. However, when Lisa turns on the bedroom light, both our dogs are quietly sleeping on their beds.
Well, there must be a raccoon trying to get in the house so I jump out of bed, but really Maggie should be on this first. Just at this moment Lisa screams the house is on fire. At the time, I’m still not so sure she’s right. That popping noise does sound like a large bonfire but, there is no indication of any smoke in the house. I run outside and see a small flame around the base of the chimney on the front of the house.
After putting the dogs in my truck, I immediately get the garden house full blast at the flames. Lisa calls 911. It was 11:04 p.m. Only seconds after calling 911, flames jump 25 feet into the air from the very back of the house, just above our upstairs bedroom. Our fire chief, Josh Como, was on scene in only eight minutes, and the engine was just behind. I know that the incredibly quick response time of our Gearhart Volunteer Fire Department and the quick assistance of the other local volunteer fire departments not only saved most of our house but our neighbors house as well. The fire was very close to their cedar roof and embers were everywhere. This was an intense fire.
I never imagined that as I watched our house burning the volunteers inside were not only fighting the fire, they were also trying to save as many of our personal items as possible. Think about this. There is a volunteer firefighter in the house taking pictures off the wall as other battle the flames.
At one point, a firefighter came over and asked if there was anything of particular sentimental value he could try and recover.
My first thought was this guy looks a lot like our city manager. Lisa, obviously distraught, tells the firefighter that her late father’s pictures are in the room below where the fire started.
I am thinking those are gone with most of our other belongings. When I saw that firefighter come out of the house with Lisa’s father’s memorabilia, that was an impactful moment for me. That was the moment I knew things had turned in the positive direction. That firefighter is our city manager Chad Sweet.
As I reflect on this particular moment, I recognize that Chad and Josh’s actions are qualities that represent the true kind of leadership we have in our city leaders. Not only can they manage a quickly developing crisis, but they also recognize the necessary moment to comfort those in need. We are truly lucky to live in a community with this kind of leadership.
To the men and women of our local volunteer fire departments. I am so impressed by you. You are an incredible asset to this community. We must ensure that the volunteer Gearhart Fire Department has the resources to continue to serve our community. I have watched the firehouse debate from the sideline in silent support for too long. A new fire station is overdue. Some things are just worth paying for. You may not know it until you are standing outside your home in the middle of the night holding a garden hose against an inferno and hoping anyone will come to help you as quickly as possible.
Dave and Lisa Koller