On the evening of New Year’s day at 9:10 p.m. Mike Sanders, chief of the Yaak fire station received a call from David Stevenson.
His 110 year old, Grizzly Log Cabin was on fire.
The cabin was built in 1910 and is dear to his heart.
Mike Sanders told The Montanian, “With a light snow falling and the words, of the reporting party stating the house is on fire,” ringing in our ears, the Upper Yaak Fire Service (UYFS) was called out, to their first fire of the year, at the three hundred acre Grizzly Ranch.
They were determined to get to the property quickly and save whatever they could. Six firefighters responded immediately, from as far as six miles away. In just another twelve minutes, three apparatus left the station. With all six firefighters en route and three more on the way, they were prepared to save the property.
The resident, David Stevenson, met them at the highway and led them down the mile long, snow and tree covered forest driveway of the 312 acre ranch.
The UYFS arrived at the log cabin and fire just eighteen minutes after being called out of there homes and fire station.
“At this time, there were no flames visible, but mass amounts of smoke were pouring out of the entire ridge-line of the 110 year old cabin,” said Sanders.
The firefighters immediately set up a plan, “Incident Command Grizzly.”
The plan of attack for the fire included three apparatus, nine firefighters, ladders, 150 feet of hose, self contained breathing apparatus, chainsaws and miscellaneous tear-down equipment.
The fire was located on the second floor and unbeknownst to the fire fighters at the time, in a sealed attic.
Two firefighters, Craig Johnson, and Mike Sanders, made the climb up their ladders and broke into the second story window. They knocked down most of the flames which flared up during the plan of attack.
They then used a chainsaw to cut a small triangle hole above the window to access and extinguish most of the main body of the fire. They entered the second story through a window and extinguished all remnants of the fire.
Teardown of two-thirds of the ceiling began as they hunted for more fire to put out.
In the end, resident Stevenson said that when he made the 911 call, he had no hope whatsoever that the fire department would be able to save anything.
He expected the log cabin, built in 1910, to be a pile of ashes by the time the firefighters would get there, thinking that it would take 45 minutes to an hour for anyone to arrive. Instead, because of quick action by UYFS, the cabin ended up with no log damage whatsoever and only two-thirds of a roof that needs to be replaced.
Later Stephenson told fire chief Sanders, he was most astonished at how fast help arrived.
Sanders said that the only reason they are so efficient is because of the training by now-deceased firefighter and trainer, Tony Bacon. “Tonight we used everything he taught us about attic fires, Sanders said. “And the moment I saw all that smoke and no flames, I simply said, ‘Oh…we got this one!’… I never had a doubt we would save this cabin. The guys all did a marvelous job. They should be proud that they saved a hundred year old piece of Yaak history.”
Sanders also said that his job as fire chief is not only to make sure fires get put out, but most importantly, to make sure his crew and the people involved make it out safely.
With hard work, great training, and even better execution and timing, luckily no one was injured during the incident.
The cabin’s residents have fixed the water damage from the hole in the roof and will have some work in the attic to do, but they are back inside their little piece of Yaak history safe and sound.
The UYFS is always looking for more members. Women, and men are always welcome to join. UYFS even has a youth firefighter training program for teenagers 14 and above. For ore information contact Mike Sanders at 295-9953.
A photo of the 110 year-old cabin, taken a day after the New Year’s fire.
Interior photo of the main damage caused by the attic fire.
Photos courtesy of UYFS chief Mike Sanders.