Double Whammy in Whitethorn

Last night at Briceland Fire’s annual general membership meeting (report coming soon), Chief Tim Olsen read a tally of 2011’s approximately two dozen calls, remarking that it was one third of normal. As if on cue, tonight we had a double-incident, two (unrelated) calls in the same area within minutes of each other.

At around 8pm, Briceland Fire, Garberville ambulance, Telegraph Ridge VFD and Cal Fire engine 1266 were called to a vehicle rollover on Shelter Cove Road near Huckleberry Lane. Briceland Chief 5400 was first on scene. Patient had minor injuries and the road was not blocked by the vehicle, so all responding units were released shortly.

However, moments after the rollover call-out, a Briceland Fire volunteer radioed-in that the large roll-off dumpster was burning at the Whitethorn dump, approximately one mile from Hucklberry Lane.

Telegraph Ridge Fire diverted there, followed by Cal Fire and Whitethorn VFD. The fire was put out by Telegraph Ridge without incident. The cause is unknown at this time.

Telegraph Ridge VFD firefighter Will Rogers at the Whitethorn dump fire.

Working in emergency response in a remote, rural area has some unique challenges. Many roads are not officially named or the commonly-used names differ from the official names on maps. Many driveways are not marked or numbered, gates are locked and many locations are only known by their historical names.

When this vehicle roll-over call first went out, the location given was “Huckleberry Hill.” This is a private residence a few miles west of Briceland, known by the sign out front. The rollover was actually several miles farther on, at the county road named Huckleberry Lane. An updated location went out shortly and everyone got where they needed to go.

This sort of confusion happens all the time when reporting parties are either unfamiliar with the terrain or so familiar that they only know the vernacular place names. It emphasizes the importance of the local knowledge when a rapid response to a fire, rescue or medical emergency is necessary.

Being long-term residents of our respective districts, local volunteer firefighters have intimate knowledge of our communities and landscapes that seasonal or rotating crews from Cal Fire, BLM or the ambulance company may not have. It is very easy to get lost on some of the backwoods road mazes in these hills at night unless you have a guide.

This is one more reason to support your local VFDs. Residents in Briceland Fire’s response area will be asked to vote on the formation of an official fire district in the next election and we hope you’ll support our service to the community with your “yes” vote.


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One Response to Double Whammy in Whitethorn

  1. Ben Schill says:

    This situation at the dump got a lot more complicated…

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