Perspective From the Oregon Coast
September 25th, 2017 by Jacob Knudsen

The Chetco Bar Fire started July 12, 2017, as a quarter-acre fire caused by a lightning strike in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness 22 miles northeast of Brookings, Oregon.

At first, the fire burned slowly in a remote, steep region with terrain too hazardous for firefighters. The scope changed in mid-August when hot, dry, on-shore winds—locally known as the Chetco Effect—fueled rapid fire growth. Within a few days, the fire grew from a couple thousand acres to more than 10,000 acres then to 80,000 acres.

Several thousand residents—including Coos-Curry Electric Cooperative Inc. employees—were ordered to leave their homes with only a moment’s notice. At 2 a.m. August 21, the Curry County Sheriff’s Department knocked on the door of AJ Weber, a CCEC lineman, telling him he needed to evacuate immediately. Lineman Tim Hawkins and Substation Electrician Ryan McGinnis immediately responded to help AJ and his wife transport their pets, important documents, heirlooms and travel trailer to safety 25 miles north.

Several days later, Safety Coordinator Cindy Peare and her parents, who live next door, were notified they needed to leave their homes. Borrowing trailers from friends and family, and with help from CCEC Staker Zane Adams, Purchasing Agent Tad Bell and Lineman AJ Weber, they moved essentials to a safe location. Assistant IT Director Duffell Gray and his family opened their home to Cindy and her parents.

As the fire grows, more members of the CCEC family are being put on pre-evacuation notice. Employees who live outside the immediate fire danger zone are storing treasures for employees whose homes are at risk. With hotels and campgrounds full, other employees have welcomed evacuees with travel trailers to park on their property.

“We are all here to help, and if anyone needs assistance, we are committed to being there day or night,” CCEC General Manager Roger Meader told employees.