PUD and volunteer fire fighters respond to vehicle, brush fire on KM
July 6, 2023
In the early afternoon on Friday, June 30, the driver of a minivan went off the side of SR 4 and into a ditch on the east side of KM. He was reported to be carrying cans of fuel to a haying project on the Westend.
Luckily for him, a crew from the Wahkiakum County PUD was passing by at the time.
"They were the first on scene for a motor vehicle accident," PUD General Manager Dan Kay said at a meeting on Wednesday. "It sounds like it was a pretty significant one. We do a lot of safety training. Some of our staff are also volunteer fire department. You could just tell from the radio calls, the professionalism and training. They were able to assess the scene and secure it. They made the initial calls. They rendered first aid to the occupant in the vehicle. They did attempt to extinguish the fire but it was moving pretty rapidly."
"Thank you is probably not enough, and they are real humble," Kay added.
Undersheriff Gary Howell and Justin Roberts, a volunteer with the Cathlamet Fire Department and the District 4 Fire Department later praised the crew for their good work.
Roberts, an EMT with Cathlamet Fire Department, who also responds to fire with the department, and is a firefighter with District 4 Fire Department would later take command of the incident.
Roberts and two other people were in the Cathlamet ambulance returning from an earlier medical call when the call about the accident came over the radio. They quickly turned around and headed towards KM.
"As we were approaching KM at Ingalls Road we could see a large, dark column of smoke," Roberts said. They could also hear PUD responders on the radio.
A fire truck from Cathlamet Fire Department responded, Roberts said, as their department is responsible for vehicle extrication and other types of rescue activities and a tender from District 4 was requested, as it was a remote area and they were going to need a lot of water.
Upon arrival, Roberts said, they found the vehicle off the road, on its wheels, on fire, and fully involved.
The lone occupant of the vehicle was able to self extricate, he said.
The ambulance crew assessed the individual, who would not require transport to the hospital, and joined the PUD in securing the scene to ensure the safety of responders and people passing by.
The tender arrived, and using a remote control, they started applying water to the fire, Roberts said. The engine from the Cathlamet Fire Department showed up with two more personnel.
They had the car fire extinguished pretty quickly, a small fire spread up the hillside into Department of Natural Resources forestland, which Roberts estimated to be about 500 feet up the hillside.
Roberts said all in all, 12 volunteer fire and medical personnel were on scene from Cathlamet Fire Department, District 4 Fire Department, Skamokawa Fire Department, and Puget Island Fire Department.
"The PUD helped immensely," Roberts added.
The Wahkiakum County Sheriff's Office eventually took over traffic control from the PUD crew.
"We extinguished the fire prior to DNR arrival, but we have to make sure any brush or any underlying ground or material is completely extinguished," Roberts said.
Roberts estimates that volunteer firefighters were on scene for about three hours.