The Wahkiakum County Eagle - Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

KM exercise was more than a house fire


Darrell Alexander

Start to finish: Firefighters from around Wahkiakum County gathered to practice skills as they burned the unused watchman's house at the county's KM Solid Waste Transfer Station on KM Mountain.

The fire fighter training exercise last Thursday night was more than just a control burn of a dilapidated old county owned house; it was a night of inspiration as more than 30 volunteer fire fighters converged on the KM to burn down this historical landmark.

It may not be a landmark to most; however, it was of particular interest to many who were there. Grays river resident Dan Anderson was there to watch his son-in-law; Robert Maki and his grandson Kevin Maki work on the fire. Dan and his wife. Bonnie. lived in this house for 18 years while at the same time they were running the transfer station there.

I could see the tears in Dan's old eyes as he realized that there was going to be a story about part of his life. The memories must have flooded him. His grandson Kevin lives in Deep River and is the Assistant Chief of Wahkiakum District 3 and Robert is Chief. Dan must be proud.

If this was not inspirational, the conversation with many of the volunteers sure was, and revealed a lot about the culture of Wahkiakum County. I emphasize the word volunteers. Many of these men and women have full time jobs and being a volunteer firefighter is not their hobby. They are very professional in how they conduct themselves and still they do not get paid. Their attitude was that of service to the community in which they live. They have set an example that many of us never see. They risk their lives for the community. You can't put a price on that. Wahkiakum County can be proud of the heritage that has been produced here. A little bit of a proud history that will be remembered.

Darrell Alexander

The combined efforts of the volunteer fire departments from Puget Island, Cathlamet, Skamokawa, and Grays River as well as Wahkiakum County Sherriff's Department were on hand for the control burn.

Duncan Cruickshank, chief of Skamokawa Fire was the first that night to direct the fire. Mike Beutler, chief of Puget Island Fire Department, was instrumental in explaining the logistics and the protocols involved. His main concern was the safety of all, "Everybody comes home is my concern."

We all watched the fire as the hoses kept the trees and surrounding area from catching fire. The water tenders kept feeding the dump banks that in turn fed the fire truck's hoses. I watched the fire in awe and wondered what stories this place could tell us. By morning there was nothing left but the ashes and the memory of what once was.


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