Brookings Couple Starts to Rebuild after Chetco Bar Fire

NewsWatch 12's Sionan Barrett finds out why one Brookings couple says the forest service mismanaged this fire which lead to the loss of their home.

Posted: Jul. 10, 2018 1:58 PM
Updated: Jul. 11, 2018 12:23 AM

BROOKINGS, Ore. — Nearly a year after the Chetco Bar Fire started from a lightning strike and threatened to burn down Brookings, the community is still rebuilding. 

The Chetco Bar Fire was reported on July 12, 2017, burning in the 2002 Biscuit Fire and 1987 Silver Fire scars located in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness in Southwest Oregon.

Firefighters responded with the intent to suppress the fire, but the steep, rugged terrain and thick brush with heavy dead and downed trees made conditions unsafe.

After 24 hours of attempting direct suppression tactics, firefighters pulled back to take an indirect approach. The fire grew to burn down 190,000 acres. 

Today if you driv eup Gardner Ridge Road, you'll see piles of burnt trees getting logged and charred cars. 

Cecilia Worlton says describes the drive up to her house like, "It's a bomb that goes off, the bomb went off and we lost everything and we were just kind of drifting and just functioning."

Nine miles up the road, you'll see the Worlton's welcome sign seemingly untouched by the flames that swept up their drive way.

Cecilia's husband Layne says, "Losing a home very much it would fall in line with losing a loved one, it's devastating."

The Forest Service says it lit new burns to redirect the fire from homes and businesses. But still 6 homes and 20 minor structures burned down on Gardner Ridge and Cate Road. 

Cecilia says, "We felt nobody, nobody responded to us up there. Not city not county, no one not even state."

The terrain of the fire proved difficult for boots on the ground to attack while staying safe, so by the time flames reached the ridge and homes their focus was saving lives, not property.

The Worlton's still say the fire could have been prevented.  

Layne says, "During that period of time we had the Forest Service driving the roads constantly, yet no structure protection at all, very disgusted with the Forest Service."

Cecilia and Layne tell me they retired the day the fire started. Weeks later, they lost their home.

Cecilia says, "I mean he's been working every day, every day since the fire. And he supposed to be retired, and he's not getting any younger, so it's getting harder."

Now the couple has joined a grassroots group to look into the fire and take matters into their own hands in case another half acre fire sprouts up near their homes. 

For the Forest Service's timeline of the Chetco Bar Fire, click the image below.

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