July, 2013

Clatskanie Bluegrass Festival, Quilt Show, Book Sale Promise Fun, Busy Weekend

READY TO PERFORM BLUEGRASS on the green grass of the Clatskanie City Park this weekend are Kathy Boyd & Phoenix Rising, from left: Tom Tower, Dennis Nelson, Kathy (Jackson) Boyd, who grew up in Clatskanie, and Tim Crosby. Tower wrote, and the band recorded, the award-winning song “Twelve More Miles to Clatskanie.” Among other featured bands at the Clatskanie Bluegrass Festival is Fern Hill of the Rainier area. Paul Smith of Fern Hill is pictured at right with festival organizer Mac Wilcox. Desma Switzer (lower photo), owner of The Quilted Dandelion and a member of the Clatskanie Quilt Show committee, stands by a “Key to My Heart” quilt by Lynette Emerson, and a “Fish Labels” quilt being donated to the Rainier Eagles, as she displays a basket full of quilting supplies that will be raffled. Desma is also holding one of the bags that will be given to each person who enters a quilt in this weekend’s show. Chief Photos by Adam J. Wehrley Top Photo Courtesy of Kathy Boyd & Phoenix Rising

The 18th annual Clatskanie Bluegrass Festival,  a Quilt Show and the Friends of the Library Buck-a-Book Sale will make for a busy and celebratory weekend in Clatskanie

Bluegrass musicians and fans are expected to come from throughout the Pacific Northwest and beyond for the bluegrass festival in the Clatskanie City Park which will feature three days of live music, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 2, 3 and 4.

Kathy Boyd & Phoenix Rising, the group who won the 2010 International City Love Music Contest with the song “Twelve More Miles to Clatskanie” and made Kathy (Jackson) Boyd’s hometown “the center of the known universe” will return to the inspiration for their song as part of the festival, performing two shows on Saturday, Aug. 3, at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m.

“We have been trying for years to fit this festival into both our schedule and our budget,” stated Boyd. “We owe a huge thanks to festival coordinator Mac Wilcox for his creativity and willingness to work with us. Our last opportunity to perform in Clatskanie was for the 4th of July celebration in 2011 and we’re so happy to be back – and this time to be able to bring our bluegrass family with us!”

Since winning the 2010 International City Love Music Contest the band has continued to keep busy, most recently with the 2013 recording – Lowground – which upon release immediately became the number one bluegrass CD downloaded for radio airplay in the world.

Their 4th CD to be released, Lowground continues to receive rave reviews both in print and as the band performs the original songs at their live shows throughout the Northwest.

“We will be onsite at the city park from noon on Saturday through the end of the festival Sunday and look forward to catching up with friends and family throughout the weekend,” said Boyd.  “And we definitely promise to play ‘Twelve More Miles to Clatskanie’ during both our sets!”

Also featured at the festival will be Fern Hill, from Rainier, playing on Friday and Saturday, Aug. 2 and 3, at 8 p.m. both nights.

Other bands scheduled to perform include the Puddletown Ramblers, Steer Crazy, Hardshell Harmony, Mission Mountain and Alder Creek.

Shows are planned at 5, 6, 7 and 8 p.m. on Friday evening, and 12 noon, 1, 2, 3, 6, 7 and 8 p.m. on Saturday. In between there will be almost continuous “open mic” performances.

A chili and cornbread feed is planned on Thursday, Aug. 1, and breakfast will be available in the park on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

There are no admission charges for members of the public attending the festival.  For those who wish to bring their recreational vehicle and camp in the park during the festival, a fee of $50 will be charged for a five-day stay.

For more information contact Mac Wilcox at 503  728-2678,

Clatskanie Quilt Show Set Aug. 2 and 3

The Clatskanie Quilt Show is set for Friday and Saturday, Aug. 2 and 3, from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.

The free show will open Friday at the American Legion Hall, 930 NE 5th Street, and expand Saturday to the Clatskanie City Park area along NE 5th. Various local businesses will display quilts both days, and vendors will offer their wares at the Legion Hall.

Those interested in showing a quilt, should bring it to the American Legion Hall on Thursday, Aug. 1, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

The organizers are also selling tickets for a quilter’s raffle basket, valued at more than $260. It Includes: a Cut ‘N Press quilters mat, 45 mm rotary cutter with five replacement blades, No Math quilt chart, Aurafil variegated thread sample pack, battery-operated LED light for small areas with two adhesive backs, ruler, three bottles of Best Press Linen, a $50 gift certificate from The Quilted Dandelion, and a $25 gift certificate from Simply Country Quilting.

Raffle tickets are on sale now through Aug. 14 at The Quilted Dandelion, and at the show. The winner will be drawn Aug. 15.

Volunteers are needed to help set up the Saturday display. To help, or get more information about the show, phone The Quilted Dandelion at  503 728-0626.

Show sponsors include Ark Real Estate, the Bag Ladies Yarn Shop, Carla’s Closet, The Clatskanie Chief, Clatskanie Computers, the Clatskanie River Inn, Colvin’s, Cronies, Discounts & Deals, Hazen Hardware, Ixtapa, The Quilted Dandelion, Singing Dog Jewelry, Sporty’s, Stitchen Custom Embroidery, Windermere, and Your Finishing Touch.

Buck-A-Book Sale Slated Thursday, Friday and Saturday

Targeting children’s needs at the Clatskanie Public Library, the annual Friends of the Library Buck-A-Book Sale fundraiser is set for Thursday and Friday, Aug. 1 and 2, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The sale will end Saturday with a “buck-a-box or bag” closeout from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the library located at 11 Lillich St.

“Our storeroom is literally bursting with boxes of books for this year’s sale that include donations from the public and additional selections weeded from the library shelves to make room for new books purchased for checkout by library patrons,” notes library director Elizabeth Kruse. Also on sale will be specially priced sets of materials including vintage volumes, videos and audio books.

“Books R Us and customer’s satisfaction remains our number one priority throughout the sale,” says Friends vice president and sale coordinator John Lillich who cautions dealers and other early birds “that in fairness to all” the sale will start exactly at 10 a.m. each day with no “presale purchases” allowed  – no exceptions.

“Traditionally we have exceeded our initial goal of making $1000 each year enabling funds to nurture ongoing children’s educational programs at our local library that might not otherwise be possible due to budget constraints in these difficult times of library and school funding,” says Friends Foundation president Ernest Carman as he encourages “fellow bibliophiles” of all ages to “sally forth and be part of this unique opportunity to find true treasures at bargain prices.”

Free lemonade will be served at the sale.

For more information, including volunteering during the sale or helping with setting up on Wednesday, August 1, at 4 p.m., call the library at 503 728-3732.

PGE Port Westward Request on EFSC Meeting Agenda Here Friday

A public meeting of the Energy Facility Siting Council (EFSC), the decision-making body of the Oregon Department of Energy (ODOE), is set for this Friday, Aug. 2, at 8:30 a.m. at the Clatskanie River Inn, 600 E. Columbia River Highway.

On the agenda will be a request for amendment 10 to Portland General Electric’s (PGE)  Port Westward generating plant site certificate.

PGE proposes to expand the site boundary for the new generating plant to accommodate three additional temporary laydown areas for use during construction of the unit 2 facility.

The laydown areas would include:

• A 1.9 acre expansion of the previously approved laydown area at the north end of the site.

• A 5.7 acre expansion of the previously approved laydown area near the water intake structure at the south end of the site.

• An additional 3.3 acres of laydown area within the fence line of the PGE-owned Beaver Generating Plant.

PGE requested an expedited review of the amendment since the unit 2 generating plant, a 200-megawatt, variable load generating plant, is currently under construction. On July 22nd, the ODOE staff recomended that the amendment be approved, and EFSC will consider it at its Aug. 2nd meeting in Clatskanie.

ODOE will accept written or e-mailed comments on the amendment until 5 p.m. on July 31. Comments should be sent to: Chris Green, Siting Analyst, Oregon Department of Energy, 625 Marion Street NE, Salem, OR 97301, or e-mailed to

Members of EFSC will also hear oral comments at its Aug. 2nd meeting.

More details on the Port Westward generating project, including the amendment request and the proposed order are available online at:

A hard copy is available at the Clatskanie Library, 111 NE Lillich Street, Clatskanie.

Also on the agenda for the Aug. 2nd meeting is a presentation about the Climate Trust by Sheldon Zakreski, who will speak about the organization and the carbon offset projects related to site certificates.

Robin Freeman of the Oregon Department of Energy will give a summary report about this year’s legislative session and energy facility siting-related bills.

Backup Battery Pack Malfunctions, Closes Columbia County Offices

Columbia County Courthouse reopened Tuesday morning after an incident involving a malfunctioning backup battery pack and the release of fire suppressant substances caused the closure of county offices in the courthouse on Monday.

The incident also impacted the county’s electronic and computer systems, and while telephone service at the courthouse was restored on Tuesday, it may be a week or more before all the computer systems are back on-line, Commissioner Earl Fisher told The Chief Tuesday afternoon.

The problems began on Friday, July 26, around 4:30 p.m., when Columbia River Fire & Rescue (CRF&R) responded to a call regarding an unusual odor in the courthouse in St. Helens.

CRF&R personnel eventually found that a malfunctioning backup battery pack was emitting the smell of rotten eggs throughout the courthouse.

In order to clear out the building, fire personnel tripped the fire alarm, which resulted in the activation of a specialized fire suppression system in the courthouse computer server room, sending a fine powder all over the room and into the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system (HVAC) and from there out into the entire building.

No one was hurt as a result of the incident, which occurred on a county-mandated furlough day.

However, the activation of the fire suppression system required an extensive three-step cleanup process for the whole building to remove the fine powder that was spread when the system was activated. The powder itself is not a hazardous material, but could be a respiratory irritant, a county spokesperson explained.

The powder also significantly affected the sensitive computer and telephone equipment in the confined server room, where courthouse data storage and telephone systems are located. Specialized technical restoration is required to clean all of the equipment.

County commissioners called an emergency meeting to deal with the situation on Sunday, July 28. The commissioners authorized the use of clean up companies to complete the three-step process of mopping and wiping surfaces, washing down walls and a final wipe of every piece of equipment, desks, and HVAC ducts, that were exposed to the fire suppression material.

The commissioners are asking for citizens’ patience as county personnel work to get systems back in working order.

Commissioner Fisher credited the leadership of commission chair Henry Heimuller in leading the response to the incident, and also expressed gratitude for the helpful response and cooperation of county staff.

As a result of the incident, county commissioners are looking into back-up systems to keep business going for those needing to record items, get permits and discuss property issues.

The circuit court system operated as usual on Monday.

The cost of the clean-up and repairs are covered by insurance, Fisher said.

MBRFPD’s Crawford and Busch Retire After 33 Years of Service

PIONEERS OF THE Mist-Birkenfeld Rural Fire Protection District, fire chief Dave Crawford and assistant fire chief Mary Lou Busch have retired after 33 years of service. Chief Photo by Cindy Bloomer




by Cindy Bloomer

Mist-Birkenfeld Rural Fire Protection District’s (MBRFPD) fire chief Dave Crawford and assistant fire chief Mary Lou Busch, who have been involved with the fire department for 33 years, have retired.

Crawford and Busch were among those who pioneered the fire department in Mist-Birkenfeld years ago. They remember first-hand its humble beginnings and played key roles in bringing the department to the professional organization it is today.

While in the transition process of selecting a new fire chief and hiring a new clerical assistant to help shoulder the work load, Crawford and Busch are returning to work at less than half-time as allowed by Public Employee Retirement System (PERS) regulations.

By staying on part-time, both hope to help pave the way for a smooth change as they gradually release the reins of leadership. “Now we’re having to figure out what we do,” explained Crawford in regard to the shift of duties, many of which have become almost second nature.

Volunteer Captain Joe Kaczenski has accepted the role of operations chief during the transition period and is in charge of leading operations and training. He was selected by the MBRFPD fire board as the new fire chief Tuesday evening.

Unique Fire District

With a residential population of approximately 1,300 and a fire district spanning 135 square miles and an additional 30 square miles of ambulance service, MBRFPD serves a wide area but has a smaller pool of people from which its volunteers come than most fire districts.

The district includes the communities of Mist, Birkenfeld and Fishhawk Lake and residences widely scattered along the transportation routes near the Nehalem River and its tributaries. Primarily, the area is timberland and farmland.

Broad response area and a fire department comprised primarily of volunteers presents challenges in having enough personnel available to cover calls at any given time.

To help facilitate timely response, in addition to the main station – located about midway between Mist and Birkenfeld on Highway 202 – there are four substations strategically placed throughout the district: Fishhawk Lake, the Sager Creek station west of Birkenfeld, and the Peterson and Burris stations east of Mist.

The rural atmosphere in which many people know their neighbors for miles around – and where some have settled for generations – helps contribute to a feeling of family which spills over into the fire department.

Community Roots

For Crawford and Busch, their roots run deep not only in the fire department but in the community as well. Both grew up in the Nehalem Valley and returned to the area to raise their families.

Crawford’s father worked for the Oregon-American Lumber Company, which operated in Vernonia from the 1920s to 1950s. Following in his father’s footsteps, he started working in the woods, then went to school to become a mechanic.

He owned and operated a mechanic shop in Mist when he started volunteering with the fire department in 1980. At that time the fire department had been newly reactivated just the year before and the first fire station built, located right next to the lumber mill on Banzer Road between Mist and Birkenfeld.

The Early Years

Construction of that fire station was a huge step forward for the fire district which had remained mostly idle since its establishment in 1956.

Its four equipment bays with gravel floors seemed more than the fire department would ever need, recalls Crawford. Previously, response was centralized from a hangar owned by Busch’s father-in-law.

Often when the fire department received a call, Busch, who also began as a volunteer in 1980, would leave her children with their grandparents who lived nearby while she hurried to the station to pull out the response vehicles as she waited for other volunteers to arrive.

Volunteers were summoned by a party-line “phone tree” which was activated by a red phone at the fire hall. It wasn’t until about four years later they received pagers. Busch and Crawford chuckled as they reminisced  how many pagers slipped from pants pockets into the toilet but dried out and kept right on functioning.

Their first fire engine was a 1942 model which needed to be parked on a hill or pushed to start. They recall the difficulties of shifting an unsynchronized manual transmission, particularly when shifting down into third gear. It was usually necessary for the driver to bring the fire engine to a stop before getting the transmission back into gear.

Canvas turnouts were soaked down with water and tended to cause steam burns when working near a blaze. Stocking caps were worn inside helmets in place of liners. To raise money to purchase fire boots, volunteers cut and sold firewood. Back then “we took anything – and we were excited,” relates Busch.

Driving big equipment is something Busch has always enjoyed, and it has served as an unexpected pairing to her initial career path as a beautician. She also drove school bus – it was something she could do during her children’s growing up years that coordinated well with their schedules.

For Crawford, being self-employed and living locally allowed him greater flexibility in being able to respond to calls. With that also came the difficulty of juggling business responsibilites. As years went by he found himself volunteering more and more, to the point that his auto mechanics business began to suffer.  Just as he was faced with the need to scale back his involvement and concentrate more effort on his business, he was offered a paid position as fire chief in 1989.

The position started part-time and increased to full-time after four months, thus bringing about an unanticipated career change.

Hiring of a full-time fire chief was made possible financially mainly due to the start of an annual payment for districts “impacted” by the operations of Northwest Natural gas company, which has a storage facility located near Mist and gas wells in the surrounding countryside.

Busch gradually took on more training and responsibility with the department and was hired full-time as assistant chief in 1996. As a woman it was a struggle to be taken seriously in the firefighting and emergency medical services industry, she relates. Busch tells women volunteers, “We’ve worked hard to have a place, so don’t screw it up.”

“Flooded” with Challenges

The flood of 1996 brought special challenges for MBRFPD. Its fire station was among buildings in the community ravaged by floodwaters.

Structural damage made it apparent that an entirely new facility was needed, and obvously needed to be located on higher ground. And so the process began to construct a brand new facility – the main station at 12525 Highway 202 that now serves the district.

MBRFPD was eligible for $500,000 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for flood recovery. “I took that as a promise and I wouldn’t let them forget it,” Crawford remembers.

Crawford was dismayed to hear initial estimates for a new fire hall coming in at $1.2 million. He was determined there must be a way and explored every option he could think of. Big steps toward closing the financial gap were a $200,000 economic development grant, distributed by the state from federal funds, and switching to steel construction rather than “stick-built” which brought building estimates down to $750,000.

All the while, Crawford was dealing with repairing his own home which also was flooded.

Local volunteers pitched in to complete site preparation work such as grading, septic, phone conduit and power – bringing the actual project cost to below the estimate.

“All we could think about was the building, we didn’t consider what would go inside it,” recalls Busch. Items such as office furniture were an afterthought. Being able to purchase surplus furniture from a bank chain undergoing a remodel was just one of the cost-saving opportunities that came their way during the rebuild effort.

The new fire station was completed in September 1999, and stands as a reminder of a community which pulled together to make it possible.

When a similar flood event struck the area again in 2007, the MBRFPD fire hall became a hub for coordinating flood response and recovery for residents – a sharp contrast to the fire station’s role during the flood 11 years before.

A request from Northwest Natural in 2003, for MBRFPD to be prepared to deliver a minimum of one million gallons of water in case of fire to any of the operating gas wells in the Mist area in a time period of about 50 hours, presented a challenge of a different sort.

Through the years, MBRFPD has had to fill tankers using whatever source is readily available – usually a nearby river or creek – or rely on mutual aid from other departments.

Although it took nearly 10 years of persistence to navigate through regulatory hurdles, MBRFPD fulfilled the challenge last year with the completion of a four-million-gallon capacity water reservoir conveniently located next to the fire station.

Crews used to spend 20-45 minutes to refill tankers from a creek or river because of the time necessary to get pumps in place. The pond cuts that to five minutes, said Crawford.

Improved Response

What stands out to Crawford and Busch as the biggest difference between the fire department now and how it was 30 years ago, is its ability to respond.

“It was a lot less organized before. Now, we get there, establish a presence, and get info so the rest can tailor their response,” they said.

Emergence of 9-1-1 communications and dispatch as well as better training for volunteers have been important factors in being able to respond more effectively. Plus, having up-to-date fire engines that don’t need push-starting is a huge stride forward.

Helping to ensure access to emergency services for Fishhawk Lake residents was the installation of a “red phone”  at the Fishhawk station which automatically dials 9-1-1 when the receiver is picked up. Busch explains that many of the residents at Fishhawk Lake do not live there year round and rely on cell phone coverage instead of having a land line, making the red phone a particularly important lifeline.

Implementation of a “closest forces” philosophy in regard to mutual aid agreements between fire districts can also be credited for improved response. This enables fire departments to focus on meeting needs at hand rather than being hampered by political boundaries. Alhough these agreements have been in place for some time, Crawford is pleased to see a more cooperative attitude in recent years that truly puts patients first. “They used to be just words on paper – it’s the spirit that’s changed,” he said.

A classic example of putting this into practice happened last winter when the neighboring Elsie-Vine Maple fire department received a medical call while busy with multiple weather-related car crashes on Highway 26. With all Elsie-Vine Maple ambulances in use transporting crash victims, MBRFPD was able to handle the call.

A Family of Volunteers

Having the latest equipment and a state-of-the-art facility are of little use to a community without the participation of volunteers. And, MBRFPD has great volunteers, emphasize Crawford and Busch.

“The focus is on family,” Crawford adds. He wants to make sure each volunteer realizes that family, job and faith are of higher priority than service to the local fire department.

There is also a sense of family that forms among volunteers. Since a few of them are second generation volunteers that reinforces the feeling of being a family unit.

Unlike many fire departments which offer some form of financial compensation for volunteers beyond paying for training and firefighting gear, MBRFPD does not. Volunteers serve to contribute to their community.

Currently there are approximately 45 volunteers plus a five-member unpaid board of directors.

Crawford is proud of what he calls “some really great success stories” – people who got their start at MBRFPD being trained as a first responder, emergency medical technician or firefighter. “They always have a special place in their heart for this community and fire department,” he said.

As for continuing to volunteer in the future, Crawford and Busch expect they will be involved with the fire department.

Serving One Another

In a small community, it’s only natural that oftentimes those needing help are people with whom fire department personnel are already acquainted.

For Busch, this was certainly the case some years back when Crawford suffered a heart attack. Busch recalls being the only EMT in district available to respond when he started having chest pains. “My confidence was zip. It was horrible,” she said. The chief insisted on putting the heart monitor leads on himself. Fortunately Crawford made a full recovery.

Crawford remembers fearing for Busch’s life while fighting a fire at the local lumber mill when she fell through a second story floor. Fortunately she got caught and did not plunge clear through. “That was a scary one,” he said.

An experience that stands out in Crawford’s memory was the time MBRFPD assisted with the birth of a baby at a local residence. As his wife Mary, who is a registered nurse, helped the mother with delivering the baby, the family’s pet bobcat roamed about the house. When Crawford asked his wife how he could be of help she quickly replied, “You can get this cat off my shoulder!”

Being in the right spot at the right time is how Busch describes the day when she was testing the fire department’s radios and a man went into cardiac arrest. There had been some difficulty with radio communications and she was working with another volunteer and a man from the county 9-1-1 district to troubleshoot the problem.

Knowing that there was nothing at the fire hall to serve for lunch, Busch decided to continue the radio testing in the direction of Birkenfeld so she could fetch some lunch at the store. When the call came in Birkenfeld, they were able to be there almost immediately and administer lifesaving aid. She still shudders to think what the outcome may have been if they had not been close at hand.

Crawford recalls the satisfaction of being able to save the home of someone who believed that the fire department could not be effective in putting out a house fire. At the time of the fire which happened shortly before Christmas, the man’s nephew was living in the home. Crews knocked down the fire and even saved the gifts under the tree. Crawford was touched to have the home-owner tell him, “ I wouldn’t have believed it was possible, you’ve made a believer out of me.”

One of the most rewarding moments for Crawford came when he was walking along in Vernonia and unexpectedy felt a tap on the shoulder. The man who approached said, “I just want to shake your hand and thank you for saving my life.” Even now, as he recalls that moment, it brings tears.

Remembering the Past While Moving Forward

As MBRFPD has upgraded equipment through the years, instead of throwing items away that the department is no longer using, they have donated such things as turnouts, training materials and even a fire engine to a fire department in Puerto Penasco, Mexico on several occasions.

Seeing their excitement upon receiving the donations and observing how they had to pump up leaky tires and drive miles to fill water into a leaky tanker truck was a visible reminder for the MBRFPD pioneers of their own struggles years ago.

“We’ve been there,” said Busch, as she reflects on the fire department’s meager beginnings. Crawford added, “You can’t forget where you came from.”

Even as the Mist-Birkenfeld fire department marvels at how far it has come, efforts are moving forward to fulfill unmet needs. Plans are being developed to extend potable water resources at the main station.

MBRFPD is also prepared to move a fire engine and second ambulance to the Fishhawk substation, plus supply training, if the Fishhawk Lake community extends the Fishhawk substation building and maintains a minimum of two EMTs.

In the future, especially in the medical portion of fire service, Crawford anticipates the practicality of combining resources. For instance, an urgent care clinic using infrastructure already in place and utilizing traveling physician’s assistants or nurse practitioners could serve as a “gatekeeper” for preventing unnecessary emergency room visits and offering a means of care closer to home.

Crawford and Busch express pride at seeing MBRFPD continue to grow professionally. Both have gone several times to the National Fire Academy. They are pleased that some volunteers within the department are furthering their professional training and that more are interested in filling leadership roles than were in the past.

As he retires, Crawford is encouraged by the dedication and abilities of those who will be taking the department forward.

Although the present day professionalism and service of MBRFPD bear little resemblance to the struggling country fire department revived 30-some years ago, one thing remains the same – the focus on coming to the aid of residents in the community.



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