This was created to aid, support and honor the heroes of S Clark Lane and their families. To help them rebuild and replace all that was lost.
On September 8, 2020 fire erupted across the state of Oregon. Over 1,000,000 acres have burned, over 3,000 structures destroyed, 11 confirmed deaths due to the 468 fires burning across the state. As people were told to accept their loss and evacuate, a group of men chose to stay behind to protect the homes of their community.
These men initially used buckets of water from the river to put out small fires that were on the embankment but to no avail the high winds continued to fuel the fire causing it to spread to nearby trees. They had no choice but to cut down the burning trees to keep the fire low. As they were doing this embers and small, burning branches were falling down on them causing one of the men’s shirt to catch fire. His shirt was quickly extinguished and they pressed on.
As the flames were scaled down two of the men went to the upper road and saw the fire had made its way there. In silence and disbelief, the men continued their fight.
Later that night another fire seemingly “blew up” downstream. Winds carried embers across the river creating a wall of fire which spanned from the top of the road to the river, approximately 300 yards long.
With the arrival of the Clackamas County Fire Department the men had their first sign of relief, only to be told they don’t have the “resources”, “count your losses and evacuate.”
Realizing they were not going to evacuate, one of the firemen gives them advise. He tells them to keep an eye on the tree tops and “ladder fuels”, all the low hanging limbs. He warns, they will not have a chance of survival if the fire grows overhead into the canopy of the trees. With those words of advice the firemen say, “good luck” and leave.
The men start out timidly towards the fire, no real plan, absolutely no training, just a group of men determined to give their all for their community and for each other.
For the first hour they’re timid about being on their neighbors property, they’re trying to be careful, respectful and not “scar any trees”. They quickly realize they need to just “get after it” so they grab shovels and a few tractors. They use one tractor to clear ground, the other to bring in dirt, and the remaining men begin “rapid firing“ dirt up into the trees. To their surprise it was working, they were stopping the fire from climbing.
Now they’re learning, if they can push it back on itself, they can stand in it and fight it... all of this was “actually working!” In disbelief and amazement that’s exactly what they do. One focuses on cutting trenches to clear paths for their safety, one focuses on suppling the dirt and the others keep smothering out the fire by shoveling dirt directly on the flames. They did this all through the night and were able to contain the fire.
The next morning they were able to see the full magnitude of what they had faced but quickly found they still had more to do.
One of the neighbors ran out to them and yelled “the forest just exploded!” The fire had instantly run from the other end of the road along the embankment and started to climb up the hill. In a moments notice the decision was made to drop trees at the base to keep the fire out of the canopy and to get out of the canyon.
This would be the time in which they face the fire head on, the ultimate test of their bravery, courage, strength and endurance.
At one point they were fully surrounded by flames and were then fighting for their lives and for each other. Fortunately they knew the deer trails and were able to use them to escape certain death.
Now, in a better position, they were able to stand their ground and fight what they believed to be their final battle, unbeknownst to them a new enemy was about to emerge.
A few days pass and they begin to survey the destruction in the wake of their war. They tirelessly work to remove debris all the while inhaling immense amounts of smoke into their lungs.
On September 12, families were coming back to their properties, salvaging what they could and removing what they could not. Suddenly a deafening sound is heard, a loud “POP”. A tree that was approximately 12 feet in circumference had cracked and went crashing down, smashing on top of one of the homes. In fear the neighbors ran to the crushed home knowing it was occupied by one of the men who had risked his life to save theirs.
The tree had crashed down and landed exactly where he had been sitting at his kitchen table. That sound, the “POP”, was his only warning to run, miraculously he survived.
In the end, much damage was caused, some homes were lost but many others were saved due to the bravery of these men. These men selflessly put their lives on the line to protect their community.
None of them are trained firemen, they were not contracted to fight this battle, nor where they properly equipped to do so. These are just average men doing what they could do with what they had because they believed it was the right thing to do.
“If fire is what took down the walls of . . . the people in our community and if that’s what brought everybody together, was to go and to live through this, and to know that . . . there’s more important things, which is to treat each other well . . . then I guess it was a battle worth fighting.” - Richard Doering
- Ariana Valdez
- Billie Tigli
- Joseph Duncan