Community, Gales Creek, News

Dallas Boge hangs up hat as rural fire board director

Dallas Boge has been many things in his life, but his most public-facing role, two terms—eight years—on the Forest Grove Rural Fire Protection District Board has been the most recent role he’s held, and now finished.

As of the end of June, his last month as a director on the small, unpaid board that governs one of the smallest fire districts in Northwest Oregon is done.

He didn’t run for another term; in fact, his daughter Melinda Fischer ran for his seat unopposed, taking office in August.

“She’s not unfamiliar with the goings on in the fire department,” Boge quipped.
Let alone the family ties, Fischer served previously on the district’s budget committee and in other volunteer roles, and holds her own political and volunteer acumen in the Gales Creek Valley separate from her father.

Before joining the board in 2015, Boge served as a volunteer firefighter in Gales Creek for just shy of 25 years.

“I’d been attending the board meetings for years and years and years prior to that,” Boge said. He filed to run for the seat after the previous director, Tim Dierickx, opted not to run.

As an aside, the trend of “family ties in small special districts” is also a thread in the Dierickx family; Tim’s son Thomas Dierickx, who lives and farms just outside of Banks, is currently an elected board member for the Tualatin Soil and Water Conservation District.

Boge’s family was, and continues to be, a powerhouse of local volunteerism and community leadership in Gales Creek. Equally well-known in the valley was his wife, Sharon Kay Boge, who died in 2018.

Sharon Boge was also active in the Forest Grove Rural Fire Protection District, representing the district in Forest Grove’s public safety advisory committee and also serving on the firefighters auxiliary group in Gales Creek.

Her passing is still keenly felt in other areas, too. This journalist noted several community members discussing putting together the recent National Night Out held in August in Gales Creek; Sharon’s name was mentioned several times in the context of things like “oh, Sharon used to do that,” in terms of planning the event. She was one of the main leaders of Gales Creek’s Neighborhood Watch as well.

Joining the board

Boge said the fire chief at the time talked to him and suggested either he or Sharon file to run for the soon-to-be open seat.

Sharon wasn’t interested, so Dallas filed for the seat, ran without an opponent and won with 99.1% of the vote (4 voters out of 444 opted to write someone else in, according to Washington County elections data).

He repeated the feat in 2019, winning with the approval of 453 voters, with just 11 opting to write someone else in.

After winning the seat in 2015 and being sworn in, he immediately resigned from his role as a volunteer firefighter; Boge said district rules prevent volunteers from serving on the board simultaneously.

Boge, 84, said some of the major work he’s participated in during his elected tenure on the board is working on a possible consolidation with several larger fire districts in western Washington County, including Forest Grove Fire & Rescue (a department of the city of Forest Grove), and districts in and around Cornelius and at one point, Gaston.

Consolidation

An initial study looked at some form of consolidation between several districts, including the Banks Fire District, Forest Grove Fire & Rescue, Forest Grove Rural, the city of Cornelius, and rural districts in Cornelius and Gaston.

Boge, a Gales Creek resident, said that discussion is ongoing, and evolving.

The Banks Fire District is the product of a merger of the Tri-Cities (the “cities” being Banks, an actual city, and the two unincorporated communities of Manning and Buxton) Rural Fire Protection District with the Timber Volunteer Fire District in 1983, according to the district’s history timeline.

After changing their name to Banks Fire District 13 in 2001, the agency opted to go their own route after a merger study, opting for independence while still maintaining close mutual aid agreements with Forest Grove and other fire agencies.

Gaston has also recently moved away from closer ties with neighboring agencies, hiring their own chief in 2022 after years of sharing a fire chief with Forest Grove and Cornelius, though they are still a part of merger talks, according to a March 17 2022 story in the Forest Grove News-Times.

Boge is uncertain as to what comes next with the possibility of some form of merger.

“I was hoping to be able to stay on as a board member until that got settled,” Boge said, but the COVID-19 pandemic saw the issue pushed to the side.

“It’s back now, being discussed again, but to me, it looks like it’s going to be a long time before it’s settled, and I’m not sure that it’ll actually happen,” he said.

“It just looks to me like it’s going to be a struggle to put something like that together on a permanent basis,” he added.

Consolidation has been the story of fire services in Washington County.

While the west side of the county remains a hodgepodge of independent districts like Forest Grove Rural and city-run departments like Forest Grove Fire & Rescue, the east side, and even parts of the west side of the county have found themselves in the arms of Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue, most recently with the annexation of Washington County Fire District 2 in 2017, which formerly served the city of North Plains and Helvetia, Scholls, Midway, and other communities near Hillsboro.

Volunteer Firefighting
Before joining the board in 2015, Boge served as a volunteer firefighter in Gales Creek for 24 and a half years.

During his time as a volunteer, Boge didn’t just respond to calls for service; he was active in pushing back against a continuing volunteer shortage by way of one of the largest investments in firefighting in Gales Creek in recent memory: the acquisition of a piece of land adjacent to the Gales Creek Fire Station and subsequent placement of a manufactured home on the property to provide free housing to those who volunteer for the district in Gales Creek.

“I think the reason I was named a firefighter of the year in 2006 was for my spearheading getting the purchase done and helping to clean it up, because it was a jungle,” Boge said of the long-vacant plot next to the station.

As of June, the home houses three firefighters, all college students, who, between their jobs and schooling, respond to calls in the area.

Boge, a longtime Gales Creek resident, joined the district as a volunteer firefighter in 1990. He’d already had a varied career by then, trained and working first as a mechanical engineer in the sawmill industry—Boge credits the spotted owl and subsequent stricter environmental regulation for his eventual change of careers— and then as a tax preparer, along with tree farming in Gales Creek and Manning throughout most of his adult life. Boge eventually transitioned into tax consulting, a practice he kept up until recently.

It took Boge a long time to become a volunteer firefighter in Gales Creek, and he admits that the genesis for the idea came after two separate instances in which he didn’t have the best timing when it comes to burning.

The first time the idea was raised came in the late 1970s after he had recently moved back to Gales Creek after a stint in Portland.

“I attempted to do some burning at the wrong time of year,” he said, prompting a visit from the local fire department.

He was told to put the fire out, and then later visited by a firefighter who raised the possibility of him joining the local volunteer corps.

The idea smoldered for more than ten years, and then, in 1989, Boge had another brush with fire, this time while conducting a more legal burn. Here’s the summary of the incident, but Boge, a skilled storyteller, recounted what happened and we’ll leave his recollection in audio format as well.

Dallas Boge recounts a 1989 incident regarding an escaped burn pile. Recorded August Aug 10, 2023 by Chas Hundley

“It was the middle of October,” he said.

“I had a rather large pile of uprooted Christmas trees that needed burning, so I lit ’em on fire. It was a perfectly legal burn day, I had burned some the day before. Everything was fine,” Boge said. He paused. “There was a lot of tall grass around those trees, and the trees burned well, and so did the grass. Pretty soon it was beyond what I could do to knock it down, so I quickly drove home, called the fire department. told them to get it going,” he said.

“They wanted detailed instructions – it was a clear blue sky day like today, I said ‘you won’t have any problem finding it,'” he said.

“And they didn’t,” he added.

The fire was knocked down before it did any real damage, Boge said, holding at two or three acres in largely grass and old stumps.

“Anyway, that was kind of embarrassing,” he said

A year later, he got serious about joining, and signed on in December of 1990.

Boge recalls about 58 hours of initial training to join the district—today firefighters go through a 12-week firefighting academy before they can respond to calls—along with continued training in the form of weekly drills.

“We became firefighters rather quickly,” he said. Several local people went through the same course, Boge said, none of whom remain with the district.

“There’s always a shortage” of volunteers, Boge said. At the time, he wasn’t working steadily, so he had a fair amount of time on his hands to devote to the district. Over nearly 25 years, he responded to numerous calls—the term is volunteer firefighter, but the reality is that few calls involve actual fires; most are medical calls—as a volunteer.

One incident he recalls was a particularly difficult call that stuck with him for a long time. A Memorial Day weekend crash on Highway 6 near what is now known as Camp Turnaround west of the Gales Creek Road and Wilson River Road junction had just occurred, and he was among the first on scene.

“We were the first equipment on scene,” Boge said. He noted that it was prior to many of the protocols for handling mass casualty scenes. Five people died in the crash he said, with four killed at the scene and another dying enroute to a hospital, and in the ensuing traffic backup, another crash happened, causing further injuries.

He said at the time, there wasn’t support for volunteers who experienced such traumatic scenes.

“It used to be, you know, just tough it out,” Boge said.

He added that there’s more support now for firefighters.

Boge also recounted other calls he was on, including a mutual aid fire in Banks at what is now the Hampton Lumber mill.

“We sent equipment and people over there, because one department can’t deal with a fire that size over a long period of time,” he said.

The fire burned for more than two days, Boge said.

“It was stubborn. I know I spent one night over there with a crew trying to keep it under control,” he said.

“It was a tricky fire,” he said.

One of his last major calls as a volunteer firefighter ended up with him in the hospital. It was time to hang up his hat as a combat firefighter.

It’s an incident well-known to many area residents: The destruction of the Primetime Restaurant in Cornelius, which burned in November of 2011.

What began for him as a “move up,” or a request to staff the Forest Grove Fire Station while their firefighters responded to a call quickly turned into their being tapped to respond as well.

“I think we got to Stringtown Road and got moved up to go to scene. So we went from driving along at 45 miles an hour to lights and sirens to Cornelius.”

Responding to the fire proved too much.

He’d been working the fire from the early morning, around 3:30 or 4 a.m., and Boge hadn’t had anything to eat or drink. In his 70s at the time, Boge said his body just gave out after fighting the fire without a break and he ended up in the hospital. After getting some fluids, he was sent home.

A few years later, Boge joined the rural fire board.

Boge said that the commitment to being on the Forest Grove Rural Fire Protection Board is not a serious time commitment, but that those who want to run can define how much they want to put in to it. There’s a monthly meeting, usually fairly short, except for the yearly budget process, which can take longer.

He recommends anyone interested in their work should try attending the board meetings held the first Wednesday of every month from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Forest Grove Fire & Rescue offices in Forest Grove (1919 Ash Street). The meeting is open to the public, and includes a portion of time for members of the public to speak before the board for three minutes.

Boge said there’s also an aspect to volunteering as a firefighter that he enjoyed during his time there: the camaraderie.

“It’s a great way to meet some people that are like minded that might become your friends. It’s a super way to meet people,” he said.

“Give some service back to the community, because it certainly needs the help,” Boge said.

+ posts

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.

Sign up for free Gales Creek news in your inbox ↓

Paid advertisements

The groceries your family needs!

New patients only, no cash value, cannot be combined with any other offers