MARYSVILLE — The city fire marshal has asked police to investigate a Saturday night blaze along the Marysville waterfront that caused a building at the vacant Welco Lumber mill to collapse.
Although no formal cause has been determined, fire marshal Tom Maloney said Sunday that it appears to be neither natural nor accidental. Chances are it was caused by someone either intentionally or unintentionally, he said.
The mill has been closed for several years and has been shelter for squatters and transients in the past.
Firefighters were called to the former mill site off First Street shortly after 10 p.m. The building was in flames and firefighters “went defenive right away,” Maloney said.
It took 30 minutes to get the fire under control.
More than two dozen firefighters helped extinguish the blaze. Crews from Everett, Silvana, Getchell and Tulalip Bay provided aid to Marysville firefighters.
No injuries were reported.
Typically, there have been two to three calls a year for small fires at the site, Maloney said.
The lumber yard, along Ebey Slough, opened in 1987 and closed in mid-2007.
In its heyday, the five-acre mill provided jobs to about 150 people, producing cedar fencing and dimensional lumber that was used primarily in home construction. Welco Lumber closed its Marysville mill with a drop in the area’s home construction market.
In 2010, a 13-year-old Marysville boy told police he set a summer fire that caused extensive damage to the lumber mill. Witnesses reported seeing a group of young people in the area just before the fire started.
Three other Marysville boys, all 13, were identified as being with the suspect at the time of the fire
The city wants the property owners to provide tighter security for the site, Maloney said. It also is considering a citation to compel the owners to get the building cleaned up.
One of the firefighting teams trying to contain the Rim Fire in and around Yosemite National Park is the Geronimo Hotshots team from San Carlos, Ariz., one of seven elite Native American firefighting crews in the U.S.
On the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation, firefighting jobs are one of only a few ways for many young men to earn a living. For team member Jose Alvarez Santi Jr., 25, the work is rewarding — but being away from home fighting fires can be tough.
“I don’t really see it as a job. Being out away from my family — that’s the part that I’m down about, is just being away,” Santi said not long before the team got the call to fight the Rim Fire.
Santi has a 3-year-old son. He’s only seen him for a dozen or so days this entire spring and summer. The 20-member crew works a fire for 14 days, then it’s a long trip home for maybe one or two days of rest, then back out again. This late in the season you can see this is starting to take its toll on a lot of the guys. But they know it’s also good money. In a good year, you could make $40,000. That goes far here.
“Of course the wife’s lovin’ it,” said senior firefighter Tom Patton. “Right now, just can’t wait to get out of here. I wanna go on another fire. It’s our only means of supporting our family.”
As on most reservations, jobs are hard to come by, and most families live well below the poverty line. There are a few jobs with the tribal government or at the small casino on the outskirts of the reservation. But much of the community is dependent on the fire season.
The only restaurant in town is the San Carlos Cafe. It’s in a worn stone building built by the U.S. government at the turn of the 20th century. The menu on the wall features the hot shot breakfast burrito. The owner, Jo Lazo, says the firefighters are looked up to here.
“I like to say our Apache men are the strongest of all firefighters. I think it just goes down through genealogy and the struggle that we had many, many years ago. We never go down without a fight,” she says.
Lazo is proud and pragmatic. The Hotshot crew members are regulars here, and that’s good for business. But the tribe and the Bureau of Indian Affairs also employ hundreds more seasonal firefighters. During a big fire year, everyone has more money in his or her pocket, including Lazo. Her cafe caters all the meals for the crews if there’s a wildfire near here.
“And it’s sad when there is a fire because we do lose a lot of vegetation, but it’s essential and it’s been essential for years,” Lazo says.
It’s hard to find someone around San Carlos who doesn’t have a father or brother or sister who’s a wildland firefighter. In fact, by late last week, the town seemed almost empty of anyone between 18 and 35.
“Yeah, right now everybody’s out on the fire. They’re up in Idaho, up in Oregon, up in Washington,” says Frank Rolling Thunder. He has fought fires since the ’70s. He says for a lot of people here, firefighting isn’t just good money — it’s a ticket off this isolated reservation. And opportunities like those don’t come along that often.
“First time we went out to Yosemite National Park … there were sequoias and I’d never seen them,” Rolling Thunder says. “It gives me the opportunity to go see all kinds of different places — the Cascades, Mount Shasta, Mount Hood.”
Representing The San Carlos Apaches
The team had only a short two days of R&R before getting the call to go to Yosemite. As word spread from man to man at the tribal forestry office, the buzz in the room changed. A little anxiety was added to the anticipation. A few guys drifted away to make last minute phone calls. A couple more moved their motorcycles into the garage. They’ll be gone for a while.
“Right now’s the time where everybody kinda double checks, makes sure they got everything they need, make their last calls to their family,” Santi says.
For Santi, this is the moment when it becomes clear what it means to be a Geronimo Hotshot. “I hold the name up high. Wherever I go, my family, they’re proud of what I do,” he says.
Santi says it’s not just about fighting fire or saving people’s homes. It’s about representing his people off the reservation. He says the crew meets a lot of people who have never heard of the San Carlos Apaches or their history.
“We come from a people that were pushed around, shoved into reservations, and to me, I want our people to show that we can do a lot of things other than being pushed around and shoved around,” he says. “It’s a good feeling.”
The white trucks with blue letters spelling out Geronimo are all packed. No more time to talk. Ten men to each “buggy” as they call them. They’ll drive through the night to California and then it’s on to the front lines of the Rim Fire.
The Cherokee Nation has sent its elite squad of firefighters to Oregon to help fight wildfires in northern California.
The dozen-member team, the Cherokee Fire Dancers, deployed to the Northwestern state on Tuesday July 23 to “work 16-hour days, hiking up to seven miles per day to cut down timber to create fire breaks to help battle the flames,” the tribe said in a statement.
“It’s a thrill watching a fire as it’s contained and know you’ve helped,” said Danny Maritt, of Tahlequah, who has been a Fire Dancer for 23 years, in the tribe’s statement. “We’re glad we’re out there making a difference.”
Fire Dancers are on call from the U.S. Forestry Department, the tribe said. Their last mission was assisting in cleanup efforts from Superstorm Sandy in New Jersey.
The Fire Dancers have traveled back and forth across the United States since 1988 to help suppress wildfires, earning “an outstanding reputation and the respect of wildland management agencies throughout the United States,” the tribe’s website says.
Information on specific fires that the Cherokee team will help with was not available, but there were several fires burning in northern California earlier in the week. Many have been contained, but others, such as the Aspen fire, were still being suppressed. That was at 2,000 acres in hard-to-access territory in the High Sierra Ranger District of the Sierra National Forest, where it was discovered burning on July 23, according to Inciweb. As of late morning on July 25, the fire had burned about 2,000 acres and remained active.
The tiny creatures had been abandoned and left to their nest as the wildfire raged closer in the Sierra National Forest in mid-June.
Too young to fly, two newborn Western screech owls could not escape the flames on their own. But no one knew they were there until the tree they were hiding in was felled to form part of the fire control line. The birds tumbled out of their nest onto a roadway, the U.S. Forest Service reported in a July 18 blog entry.
Two firefighters saw them, scooped them up and summoned assistance, which brought Anae Otto, a wildlife biologist for the Sierra National Forest’s Bass Lake Ranger District.
“My heart was racing when I received the report of owls on the ground in the Carstens Fire,” Otto told the forest service after making the 2.5-hour drive to retrieve the birds. “I was concerned because there were no details as to how old they were, how long they had been exposed, etc. I was relieved to find the owlets alive and in fair condition. So much of my daily work deals with habitat protection. It was very rewarding to provide direct assistance to an animal in need.”
Otto estimated they were between two and three weeks old. She wrapped them in a towel and brought them home overnight, the forest service said, then called for reinforcements the next day. That brought in wildlife rehab specialist Terri Williams, a volunteer for the Fresno Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Service.
Now the two owls, dubbed Puff and Fluff, are being cared for until they can fly. At last report they were chowing down daily on 25 crickets, two mice and a chick.
Puff and Fluff will grow to be 7½ to 10 inches long, according to information on the species from the Arizona Game and Fish Department. They will weigh between four and seven ounces, and their wingspan will reach 21 inches or so, the department said.
The Carstens fire raged for 10 days between June 16 and June 26, according to CalFire, the website for California fire incidents. It burned 1,708 acres in total, including acreage in the Sierra National Forest.
Memorials and fund-raising assistance were launched throughout the day on July 1 as Prescott, Arizona descended into grief at the loss of 19 of their fire department’s elite combat team, who were dubbed heroes.
The Granite Mountain Hotshot elite firefighting team members died after a wind shift brought a wall of flames up to 30 feet high crashing into their hurriedly assembled last-ditch fire shelters. One member of the 20-man team was deployed elsewhere and not injured.
The firefighters, 14 of them in their 20s, are being hailed as heroes. They are Andrew Ashcraft, age 29; Robert Caldwell, 23; Travis Carter, 31; Dustin Deford, 24; Christopher MacKenzie, 30; Eric Marsh, 43; Grant McKee, 21; Sean Misner, 26; Scott Norris, 28; Wade Parker, 22; John Percin, 24; Anthony Rose, 23; Jesse Steed, 36; Joe Thurston, 32; Travis Turbyfill, 27; William Warneke, 25; Clayton Whitted, 28; Kevin Woyjeck, 21, and Garrett Zuppiger, 27.
Currently covering more than 4,000 acres as of Monday night, it’s the deadliest wildfire for firefighters in 80 years and one of the worst in U.S. history, CNN reported. It was being battled by 400 personnel, according to InciWeb, but was zero percent contained on Monday.
Fund-raising sites sprang up online, and a memorial began in front of the Prescott Fire Department for the families left behind, including numerous children, some of them unborn. The Prescott Firefighter’s Charities, the official charity arm of the Prescott Fire Department, set up a donation site for the families of the victims.
“100% of any and all donations will go to the families of the fallen firefighters,” the group said on its website. “The Prescott Firefighter’s Charities is operated by Prescott firefighters, and we want to ensure everything goes to these families. No money will be diverted for administration costs or anything else—we are doing this on a volunteer basis. It’s a crushing blow for us, but we can’t fathom what their families are feeling.”
The crowdfunding Internet site Teespring.com launched a three-week campaign selling T-shirts honoring the Granite Mountain Hotshots Crew and had already received requests for more than 3,000 by Monday night July 1. Shirts sell for $20, and all proceeds go to the Wildland Firefighter Foundation, which honors those who die battling deadly blazes. Click here to reserve a shirt in the next two weeks, six days.
The Granite Mountain Hotshots, and other units like them, are specially and rigorously trained to hit the hottest spot of a fire.
“Members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, one of 112 Interagency Hotshot Crews around the country, have never had to use shelters during a wildfire,” wrote the Arizona Republic presciently in an April 2012 profile of the elite squad. “But working in remote locations to get ahead of the most dangerous sections of fires makes knowing how to do so a matter of life and death.”
As the firefighters’ bodies were transported to the medical examiner’s office in Maricopa County, people gathered—praying in front of the courthouse, creating a shrine in front of the fire department and waiting for word on a formal memorial service, the Los Angeles Times reported. Three of the men were from Southern California.
The exact reason for their demise was still being investigated, the Los Angeles Times said, although it appeared that wind gusts were fueled by a thunderstorm cell that moved into their vicinity as they fought the flames.
“The storm created strong and erratic winds in an area described as extremely rocky, with rough terrain and deep canyons,” the Los Angeles Times reported. “The gusts pushed the flames toward the hotshots, who were trying to create a firebreak in hopes of stopping the flames’ advance.”