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About Seaside signal. (Seaside, Or.) 1905-current | View Entire Issue (Jan. 5, 2018)
January 5, 2018 • Seaside Signal • seasidesignal.com • 3A
How local crews made a difference in California
provides a sense
By Brenna Visser
When Tanner Rich joined
the Gearhart Volunteer Fire
Department as a part of his
Pacifica Project senior year of
high school, he never expected
he would help fight the largest
fire in California history.
Rich, 19, a Seaside native,
was deployed to the Thomas
Fire in Ventura County, which
burned 440 square miles and
destroyed more than 1,000
His previous experience
consisted of structure fires,
medical calls and helping with
the occasional car wreck. So
naturally, he was filled with
equal parts uncertainty and ex-
“It was pure shock. Wow
— I’ve never seen something
like that before. I grew up in
Seaside,” Rich said. “Taking
in all the burnt houses, seeing
people coming back to find
their houses was a very somber
Rich was one of the dozen
firefighters sent from Clatsop
County to fight a variety of
fires blazing in Southern Cal-
ifornia in December. The ma-
jority of the task force’s time
was spent at the Thomas Fire,
which has burned more than
280,000 acres and killed one
Fire Chief Ron Tyson of the
Olney Walluski Fire & Rescue
District, Amy Lenz, Dallas
Firefighters returned in mid-December after deployment in California.
Ritchie and Justin Perdew of
the Knappa Fire District, Bran-
din Smith and Flint Helligso of
the Lewis & Clark Fire Depart-
ment, Tanner Rich and Angels
Perez of the Gearhart Volunteer
Fire Department, Chris Dugan,
Lt. Genesee Dennis and fire-
fighter Katie Bulletset of the
Seaside Fire Department, and
Cannon Beach Fire Chief Matt
Benedict all returned home
safely Dec. 20 in time for
This is the third time Clat-
sop County firefighters have
been sent this year to combat
blazes outside of their juris-
diction — an anomaly for the
region. The next most active
summer was in 2015. Person-
nel were sent out only sparing-
ly before then.
“If we’re getting called out
all the way out here, I thought,
how bad is it down there?”
Rich said. “But I was excited to
have an opportunity to help.”
‘We were all one’
While on the scene, Clatsop
County firefighters were tasked
with protecting homes, putting
out hot spots and building fire
lines to prevent the inferno
from swallowing some of the
ritziest neighborhoods near
Los Angeles. Crew members
trimmed back foliage and set
sprinklers around houses to
beat back growing flames.
Olney Fire Chief Tyson has
been in the business of battling
blazes in Oregon since 1986,
and has seen a number of wild-
land fire deployments. But fire-
fighting in Southern California,
where rain hasn’t fallen since
last February, brought unique
“When we went to Sis-
ters, you could tell they built
homes with fire safety in mind.
They had backup energy in
case the power went out to
run the sprinklers, they didn’t
have stuff growing up by the
house,” Tyson said. “But (in
California), the yards are full of
dry brush litter for mulch, and
plants were growing right up
by the house. It made our jobs
harder, for sure.”
What also made this de-
ployment special was the ca-
maraderie of the group, Tyson
said. The crew worked 24-hour
shifts, judiciously monitoring
perimeters and putting out hot
spots before they evolved into
flames. The days were long
and tiring, with members tak-
ing turns napping in the fire
engines. The news of a Califor-
nia firefighter losing his life in
the same fire they were fighting
dampened everyone’s spirit.
But the bond they formed
was invaluable to get through.
“If you are going to get de-
ployed with anyone, this is the
group to get. We had so much
fun, but we took it real serious,
too,” he said.
Gearhart volunteer Garcia
said the bond crews build is
one of her favorite aspects of
being deployed on larger fires.
“People were encouraging
each other, taking care of each
other. What I love is that we
were all one — not just fire-
fighters from Gearhart, Sea-
side, Lewis and Clark, et cet-
era. Those hardworking days
and nights, because of the atti-
tude, didn’t seem as hard.”
“He said he was a blue-col-
lar guy, not like the rest of the
multimillion-dollar homes that
were around him. He was an
electrician with a small avo-
cado grove behind their house,
and we were assigned to pro-
tecting his home,” Dugan said.
“He told us this is all he had —
he spent his whole life getting
it. He was so grateful when we
told him we were going to give
him a break from protecting it.”
Piece of the puzzle
Garcia started firefighting
five years ago at Columbia
River Fire Department, and
just this year served on three
task forces to different Oregon
and California fires.
“I just wanted to be apart
of something and make a dif-
ference. That’s how I started,”
But what has kept her going
five years later — even with the
long, cold nights of patrol and
the feeling of missing her four
children back at home — is the
feeling the gratitude of the peo-
ple she protects, she said.
“It’s hard to put it into
words. It’s different than on
TV,” Garcia said. “You feel the
heat of the flames, you feel the
worry of these people, but you
also feel the gratitude.”
Signs championing fire-
fighters and encouraging mes-
sages from locals and family
were some ways they felt that
gratitude, said Dugan, Sea-
side’s fire division chief.
But one homeowner, still
diligently moving his sprin-
kler around his property day in
and day out after everyone had
evacuated, stood out.
In the abstract, knowing he
was fighting a fire that easily
could be the equivalent of the
distance to Astoria from Sea-
side was daunting, Dugan said.
But in the day-to-day tedium
of tasks, sometimes that awe is
lost in translation.
“I was talking to some-
one on the crew who felt like
in the middle of it we weren’t
doing a whole lot. We weren’t
on the front lines,” Dugan
said. “But the Thomas fire is
a 10,000-piece puzzle. Maybe
we were just one piece, a blue
sky piece, but without it the
whole puzzle doesn’t work.
That’s what we did.”
There’s a lot to learn from
this year’s deployments,
both Dugan and Tyson said.
While local departments hold
semi-regular wildland fire
trainings, experiences like this
can only prepare local forces
better for events in their own
“Most of these areas hadn’t
seen fires for 80, 100 years,”
Tyson said. “The lesson is
don’t get complacent just be-
cause we haven’t had a fire
like this. Because they hadn’t
Virginia Lee Poppino
Nov. 8, 1928 — Dec. 8, 2017
May 5, 1935 — Dec. 23, 2017
Virginia Lee Poppino was born Nov. 8,
She was one of the first waitresses when
1928 in Wallowa, Oregon, and went to be with the Pig ’N Pancake opened in Seaside, and she
the Lord on Dec. 8, 2017. Raised on the fam- worked there many years before moving into
ily farm until she was 9, the family moved to bookkeeping for the family Overhead Door
the Oregon Coast in 1937 due to her
business. She and Gene retired in
Virginia attended schools in Ol-
An active Christian, Virginia and
ney, Seaside, and Astoria before
Gene attended the Nehalem Valley
marrying Gene Poppino Sr. on June
Community Church for 35 years be-
fore relocating to the Lewis & Clark
28, 1946. Gene and Virginia traveled
Bible Church in Astoria. Virgin-
widely, visiting nearly every state
ia was also active in the Gideon’s,
before they settled down, not long
where she served as the Memorial
after the birth of their son.
Living on the same property in
Bible Secretary for many years. She
Gearhart since 1959, they first had
also served on the board of directors
a mobile home before Gene built Virginia Poppino for the Child Evangelism Fellow-
their new home in 1962. Virginia
Virginia is survived by her son
loved her view over the golf course,
and got her wish to live in her own home until and daughter-in-law, Gene and Anne; two
her death. Gene and Virginia were married 66 grandsons, Adam and Joe; five great-grand-
children; as well as nieces and nephews.
years prior to his passing in 2012.
Virginia enjoyed singing, golf, bowling,
A memorial service will be held at Lewis
collecting golf balls she found on her walks & Clark Bible Church, 35082 Seppa Lane, As-
near the golf course, and growing flowers. She toria, Oregon on Saturday, Jan. 6, 2018, at 11
was an excellent grandma and great-grandma, a.m. Donations in Virginia’s memory can be
made to The Gideon’s Memorial Bible Plan.
Dale Frandsen, 82, passed away at his
Dale was a member and past president of
Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church, the Seaside
home in Seaside on Dec. 23, 2017.
He was born May 5, 1935, in Glasgow, Chamber of Commerce, and Seaside Rotary
Montana, to Earl and Dorothy Ahl Frandsen. Club, a member of Seaside Elks and Ameri-
can Legion, and served on the Miss
Dale spent his early years on his
Oregon Pageant Board and on sev-
family’s farm near Sisseton, South
eral city and community service
Dakota, where he also attended
school. In 1950 he moved to As-
toria, Oregon, and graduated from
Dale is survived by his two
daughters, Sally Frandsen of Olym-
Astoria High School in 1954.
pia, Washington, and Angela Beck
He served in the U.S. Army, and
(Don) of Seaside; grandchildren
was a graduate of Elgin Watch and
Ben Homolac, Joel Homolac, Jes-
Clockmakers College in Elgin, Il-
sica Moates (Adam) and Amanda
Mr. Frandsen started in the jew-
Beck; and five great-grandchildren.
elry business working for Ulaine’s
A service will be held on Satur-
day, Jan. 6, at 11 a.m., at Our Sav-
Jewelry in Astoria and Del Moore
iour’s Lutheran Church in Seaside.
Jewelry in Seaside. In 1961, he
purchased the store and changed the name There will be a viewing from 10:15 to 10:45
to Frandsen’s Jewelry. In 1997, Dale retired a.m. at the church.
Memorial contributions may be made to
from the jewelry store.
On Sept. 24, 1960, he married Shirley Seaside Rotary Foundation or Our Saviour’s
Wilson in Astoria. They made their home Lutheran Church in Seaside.
Caldwell’s Funeral & Cremation Arrange-
in Seaside, where they lived the rest of their
lives. In retirement, Dale was able to golf, ment Center is in charge of the arrangements.
drive his Corvette and spend time with his Please sign our online guest book at cald-
wife of nearly 54 years.
Dorothy Mae Niebuhr
May 27, 1928 — Dec. 3, 2017
Dorothy Mae Niebuhr, age 89, peacefully
In the second half of her life, Dorothy began
passed away at her home in Seaside, surrounded traveling again, expanding her horizons. She
by her family, on Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017. She was visited Alaska three times, including a side trip
born on May 27, 1928, in Los Angeles, Califor- into the Arctic Circle. With good friends from
nia, to Raymond and Ida Jacobs. Dor-
Seaside, she went to New England
othy graduated in 1946 from Wash-
one autumn, and experienced the
ington High School in Los Angeles.
spectacular fall colors. She cruised
She married Raymond Niebuhr on
through the Panama Canal, and
Nov. 20, 1946, in Los Angeles. Fol-
journeyed down the Amazon Riv-
er, venturing up its tributaries to re-
lowing their wedding, they moved to
mote indigenous villages. She hiked
Walcott, Iowa. They had three chil-
dren and lived in Walcott until 1958,
around Machu Pichu, and explored
when they moved to Beaverton, Or-
other ancient ruins in Mexico, China,
Thailand and Cambodia. There was
Dorothy was a person of many
no end to her curiosity and interest
gifts and talents. Bright and inquis- Dorothy Niebuhr in different countries, cultures, and
itive, she had a knack for solving
problems, thinking strategically and
Yet more than building houses,
finding good bargains. She enjoyed playing golf playing golf and bridge or traveling, Dorothy
and duplicate bridge, shopping, traveling, ex- loved her family and friends. She raised two
ploring new places and challenges.
families, her three children and later, three
At one point in her life, she restored old grandchildren. Her home and heart were always
homes and built new ones from the ground open and welcoming. She had a gift for reach-
up — a real feat in those days before women ing out and connecting with people in a deep,
were accepted in construction trades. She hap- enduring way. She truly enriched the lives of
pily took on several young men as apprentices many, and definitely lived her life to the fullest.
during her home-building days, men who went
She is survived by her three children, Susan
on to pursue careers in construction. Each of Niebuhr McCormick (Greg) of Polson, Mon-
these men remained good friends with Doro- tana, Sally Niebuhr Higgs (Kendall) of Seaside,
thy, and always expressed their gratitude for and Michael Niebuhr (Debbie Fry) of Cannon
the learning opportunities and “career start” she Beach; her five grandchildren, Genesee Dennis
(Anna), Lineah Dennis, and Shellie Dennis, all
When her children were young, she planned of Seaside, Sage Marie Niebuhr of Arch Cape
annual summer vacations, driving or taking the and Rachel Niebuhr of Portland; and by her six
train from Iowa to destinations out west. She great-grandchildren, all of Seaside.
knew the locations of all significant historical
A celebration of Dorothy’s life is planned for
markers along the route, and made sure her fam- late spring 2018.
ily stopped for each one. Dorothy or one of her
If friends would like to make a donation in
children read them aloud, and once back on the her honor, please consider giving to Camp Ki-
road they’d talk about the events and people of wanilong in Warrenton or to Lower Columbia
Hospice in Astoria.
that historical place.
Monday, Jan. 8
Tuesday, Jan. 16
City Hall, 989 Broadway.
Seaside City Council, 7 p.m.,
City Hall, 989 Broadway.
Seaside School District
Board of Directors, 6 p.m.,
1801 S. Franklin, Seaside.
Thursday, Jan. 11
Seaside Planning Commis-
sion, work session, 7 p.m.,
City Hall, 989 Broadway.
Advisory Commission, 6
p.m., City Hall, 989 Broad-
Cannon Beach Academy,
5:30 p.m. 3718 S. Hemlock
St., Cannon Beach.
Seaside Convention Center
Commission, 5 p.m., 415
Gearhart Planning Com-
mission, 6 p.m., 698 Pacific
Wednesday, Jan. 17
Seaside Tourism Advisory
Committee, 3 p.m., 989
Thursday, Jan. 18
Seaside Tree Board, 4 p.m.,
Monday, Jan. 22
Seaside City Council, 7
p.m., City Hall, 989 Broad-
Tuesday, Jan. 23
Seaside Airport Advisory
Committee, 6 p.m., City
Hall, 989 Broadway.
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