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Breitenbush Hot Springs logo

Breitenbush Fire Department Meets the Challenge

Published March 22nd, 2006 in Community Perspectives

fire-deptBreitenbush has always been a bit “woo woo”, we’ve known that since we first bought the ghost-town resort in the 70’s. But recently, when the Chief Ranger of nearby Detroit Ranger Station called us a “Wooey”, it piqued my curiosity. He explained it’s an acronym that stands for “Wildland Urban Interface.” A WUI is a permanent human population center deep in the forest and mountains—a modern frontier settlement. The Chief was talking about Breitenbush’s unique situation in the canyon, and he was concerned. We’re 10 miles from the nearest town and electrical grid, 50 miles from the nearest fire department or hospital. We have 125 buildings on our land and half as many staff who live here year round. At any time during the year there may be 100 or more guests on property. Close by, scattered along Breitenbush River and Devils Creek, are 72 “Summer Cabins” visited year-round by vacationers. During high season (May – October), there are some 400 designated campsites throughout the Breitenbush canyon, plus many lakes and trails, all popular with the public. Over the years we’ve responded to numerous medical calls (accidents in camp, on roads & trails), as well as the occasional search & rescue operation. But it was the specter-threat of fire that was the Chief’s main concern that day. Every year brings close calls with campfires that go out of control, lightning strikes, etc. Concerned with our preparedness in these matters, he said, “You hold your destiny in your hands”.

To meet the challenge, we are creating the new non-profit Breitenbush Fire Department (BFD). The BFD is an all-volunteer crew, currently with 13 trained & equipped women and men who otherwise serve guests at Breitenbush (as office and maintenance workers, massage therapists, etc.). With generous help from the Breitenbush ECO Fund (our other non-profit arm) and others, we now own two fire trucks and a medical rescue vehicle, and are trained in their use. We invest time, materials and money year-round in medical and fire prevention training to protect ourselves, and many others here in our particular place in the wilderness.

The next step in our quest for preparedness is to build the Breitenbush Fire Station to house our three vehicles and to store all the equipment we have gathered.

We’re asking lovers of Breitenbush to make a tax-deductible donation to the BFD, earmarked “Fire Station”. Every dollar donated to this cause will be used for this structure, not a penny goes to administration, salaries, etc. If you feel so moved, just send your gift to: Breitenbush Fire Department, PO Box 553, Detroit OR 97342.

– Peter Moore