Gales Creek – The historic Community Hall on Old Wilson River Road burned to the ground on the morning of October 22. One resident was injured and taken to an area hospital after she jumped from the burning structure, landing two stories down behind the building.
Forest Grove Fire & Rescue was dispatched to a call at 9:17 a.m. at 54296 Old Wilson River Rd, where they found a fully involved fire sending billowing black smoke into the air.
Resident Richard Lance had lit a fire in a wood burning stove earlier that morning, and then gone to bed. He thinks the fire started and spread from there.
“I woke up and the house was in flames. I was willing to go through the flames to get to the door.” said Lance. His girlfriend couldn’t make it to the door . “She had to dive out the window,” said Lance. “I’m happy to be alive.”
Once outside, Lance pounded on the door of their next door neighbor, Meg Bateman, who called the fire department, as did several other neighbors and churchgoers from the nearby Gales Creek Church of God, which was starting morning classes prior to a Sunday worship service.
As the fire burned, Bateman and the responding fire crews evacuated Bateman’s house, which is close to the Community Hall building, and brought her pets out of the house, including her granddaughter’s 4H show rabbits.
Firefighters were hampered in their efforts to the fire due to a live power line near the front of the Community Hall, forcing crews to battle the structure from Bateman’s property, where they knocked down a fence to get to the fire. Crews that responded include Forest Grove Fire and Rescue, Banks Fire District #13, Gaston Fire Department, Cornelius Fire Department, and Metro West Ambulance.
Ultimately, the building was a complete loss, as the old wood structure proved to be fast-burning, built decades ago with little in the way of safety standards.
Two dogs and a pet rabbit perished in the fire.
The hall had been many things over the years: A dance hall, a community events center, a church meeting place, and most recently, a residence.
Sources and more information:
Special thanks to Sharon Hundley, who was on-scene and conducted interviews, gathered facts and took photographs throughout the fire.
Matt Johnston, Forest Grove Fire & Rescue
Phone interview with Richard Lance