Community, Gales Creek, News

Open house highlights firefighting history and need for volunteers in Gales Creek

Dozens of Gales Creek residents past and present dropped by an open house to commemorate 50 years of firefighting in Gales Creek Saturday, filling the station with memories and learning as visitors flipped through documents, viewed photographs, and reminisced.

The event was hosted by members of Forest Grove Fire & Rescue, and spearheaded by Gales Creek resident and longtime volunteer Joyce Sauber with the aid of incoming Forest Grove Rural Fire Protection District director Melinda Fischer and other volunteers.

Sauber’s late husband Bill Sauber was a longtime fixture in the ranks of the volunteer firefighters in Gales Creek.

His obituary notes he was one of the original founding members of the Gales Creek Fire Brigade, and served for nearly two decades as a volunteer firefighter in Gales Creek.

Children enjoyed face-painting, rides on a fire engine, and there was cake and refreshments for all to enjoy.

For the history-minded, binders filled to the brim with information about past firefighting activities in the Gales Creek Valley and photographs of members of the Gales Creek Fire Brigade were on hand. The brigade was the precursor to today’s Forest Grove Rural Fire Protection District, which, contrary to the name, doesn’t actually include the city of Forest Grove, but rural unincorporated communities surrounding the city.

The sole station in the district is in the heart of Gales Creek, but the district includes rural communities like Verboort, Glenwood, Dilley, Watts, Hillside, Kansas City, and other dots scattered across the map of central far western Washington County.

It’s governed by an elected board of directors, some of whom were on hand for the day’s festivities.

Skip Mathers, a longtime volunteer who got his start in Gaston remembered his time as a battalion chief in Gales Creek, where he led a group of volunteer firefighters, a group which includes Gales Creek resident and outgoing FGRFPD Director Dallas Boge.

Boge, who will be ending his term next month after years on the board—his daughter, Melinda Fischer was elected to the seat in May and will be sworn in July 5—said he was glad to see the Gales Creek Fire Station still here after his time as a volunteer ended. He noted it had seen some upgrades since then.

He noted a new system to remove exhaust from the station’s bay pulls exhaust through a piping setup so that firefighters don’t have to breathe the exhaust in the enclosed space.

Boge said he enjoyed driving the vehicles on display at the station.

The Gales Creek Fire Station open house June 17 2023. Photo: Chas Hundley

Boge, a volunteer for just under 25 years in Gales Creek, hung up his hat as a firefighter engineer, spending most of his time driving firefighting equipment and operating the pumps.

“At that point, I was getting up in years and it was better to have the younger people dealing with the hoses,” he said. “I could keep the water flowing to them.”

Boge pointed to one of the engines sitting in front of the bay.

“I managed to burn up a set of tires on that tender at the David Hill fire,” Boge said. “I was hauling water up [a logging road] there and didn’t have some of the settings quite right.. they had to replace the tires after that. Oops!”

That fire, a July 14 2010 blaze, was captured in a video from the Gaston Rural Fire District, and sure enough, the yellow Tanker 7 that Boge pointed to can be seen in the footage, though it’s hard to tell if the tires are smoking through the haze from the wildfire.

Forest Grove Fire & Rescue opened applications for volunteer firefighters June 19, closing July 16. Interested applicants must be at least 18 years old, have a high school diploma or equivalent, possess a valid Oregon driver’s license, pass a criminal background check and have a good driving record.

Those interested in volunteering should contact Volunteer Coordinator Steve Black at Forest Grove Fire & Rescue by calling 503-992-3195 or by emailing [email protected].

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Chas Hundley is the editor of the Gales Creek Journal and sister news publications the Banks Post and the Salmonberry Magazine. He grew up in Gales Creek and has a cat.

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