Thank you Orcas Fire | Letter

Here is a huge thank you to all of the firefighters who helped to fight a wildfire in a challenging location on our property at the base of Turtlehead on the 14th and 15th of this month. Needless to say, it was a very scary situation!

The fire covered over half an acre of our forest and would have been much larger and more intense except for the quick response and actions of the Orcas Fire and Rescue firefighting crew. We have great appreciation and respect for all of the OIFR firefighters as well as the fire fighters from San Juan Island, Lopez Island and Sedro Wooley (DNR) who joined in. And thank you, as well, to the members of the auxiliary who supported them all. Special thanks to Chad Kimple (on-scene commander), Rich Harvey (first responder to the scene who single-handedly started a containment ring), Dave, Dean, Liam, Bob, Alex, Shawn, Ben, Bruce, Kari, Alan, Nick, Jim, RJ and (sorry if we didn’t catch all of the names) so many other talented and capable men and women who worked as an amazing team and demonstrated impressive skills both during the fire and in the days that followed as we all checked for “hot spots.”

While the inspectors have not determined the exact cause of the fire, it appears to be the result of a careless act by a visitor to the property (a discarded cigarette, possibly). Watching these firefighters fight our fire on a precipitous slope that we consider too dangerous to climb around on during normal times was a profound experience for us. Besides our worry for the land, our concern for these brave and generous people reinforces the responsibility we all share to be vigilant in our efforts to prevent wildfires during fire season and to work to keep our forests fire-safe. We owe this to our firefighters to ensure their safety.

We are so fortunate to have this high level of firefighting experience on the island. Thank you again to a wonderful group of people who are an incredible asset to our community.

Pete and Deborah Helsell

Orcas Island