October 11, 2008

Crapo Honors Heroes Of Oregon Trail Fire

Congressional Statement notes efforts of police, firemen, homeowners

Washington, DC - The actions of Boise area firefighters, police, emergency crews and homeowners during a catastrophic fire in Southwest Boise last August were honored today by Idaho Senator Mike Crapo. Crapo spoke during a neighborhood event where victims of the Oregon Trail Fire returned to help each other heal from the events of August 25, 2008. Those named in the Congressional Record Statement were presented copies, as were the leaders of the Boise Police and Fire Departments. The Statement reads as follows:

On August 25, 2008, Idahoans residing on the Boise bench in the area of the Oregon Trail and Columbia Village subdivisions experienced immense devastation caused by a brush fire that became a residential nightmare. With the combination of 50 m.p.h. winds, dry sage brush, high heat, sloped terrain and homes with cedar shake shingles and wooden decks, a small grassfire exploded, claiming the life of one woman, destroying ten homes and causing extensive damage to nine others. Mary Ellen Ryder, a professor at Boise State University, beloved wife of Peter Ryder and a friend to the community, was the single fatality. My thoughts and prayers and those of many Idahoans are with the Ryder family.
Although the fire caused great devastation, many lives and homes were saved because of the efforts of several courageous Idahoans. I would like to formally recognize one homeowner, two Boise police officers, one firefighter and one local humanitarian. Without their selfless service and personal sacrifices of physical safety, expense and time away from families and careers, the outcome and aftermath of the fire would have been much harder to endure. Thanks to homeowner Kent Hallamore, a survivor of the fire, my office gained key insight into the contributions of these five citizens.
The first Idahoan I'd like to acknowledge is Rod Poe. When the fire reached Rod's subdivision, he quickly alerted neighbors and evacuated the surrounding homes. Even before emergency assistance arrived, Rod was hosing down houses within the fire's path and putting out new blazes as they emerged. He stayed on the scene for the entire night and for many subsequent evenings inspecting the area for hot spots and patrolling for looters. His leadership in the community extended beyond physical service. He comforted the suffering, acquired household goods for those who had none, and contacted Boise's mayor to discuss future fire prevention solutions for the bench area.
Like Poe, Officers Jason Rose and Chris Davis of the Boise Police Department were among the first to begin working at the location of the fire. These two men ran door- to-door, urging residents to leave their homes. As homes ignited, the inferno-like conditions worsened and took their toll on the men. Their clothing caught fire; their vision blurred; and both suffered from smoke inhalation. Yet, they faced these risks with valor, persisted in their duties and saved the lives of many residents.
Firefighter Charlie Ruffing is the sole coordinator of the Firefighters' Burn-out Fund, a collection fund for the immediate needs of fire victims. In the aftermath of the Oregon Trail Fire, Ruffing responded on his personal cell phone around the clock. He worked diligently to collect cash and household goods and distribute them. To date, he has collected over $110,000 in cash and gift-card donations. He displayed tremendous compassion and individual care for each family he assisted. He exceeded his responsibilities and earned the trust and respect of those he sought to assist.
Finally, Pattie Wagstaff organized an assistance network and coordinated a community donation event which amassed even more personal and household goods than the fire victims needed. Since the coordinator of her church's disaster relief program was among the victims of the fire, Wagstaff heroically filled the void. Taking two weeks off from her job to help in the relief efforts, Wagstaff quickly came to play an integral part in helping the affected families begin to return to normal life. Her presence inspired many during times of great shock and emotional upheaval.
Many hands played valuable roles in quelling the flames and caring for the people who survived the Oregon Trail Fire. To these five individuals and members of the Boise Police and Fire Departments as well as the others who so selflessly served their community, I join with family, friends and neighbors to offer my sincere gratitude.