Sept. 12, 2018 — Sand Dunes Frontier has been an important part of the Florence community since 1960, when it quickly became one of the most popular outdoor recreation experiences available for those wanting to enjoy the thrill of riding on the Oregon Dunes.
Early Tuesday morning just after 5 a.m., Siuslaw Valley Fire and Rescue (SVFR) responded to reports of a fire engulfing a building at Sand Dunes Frontier, four miles south of Florence at 83960 Highway 101.
Firefighters arrived with two water tenders and pumpers, along with more than a dozen firefighters and first responders from Western Lane Ambulance District.
Mutual aid was requested from fire departments in Reedsport, Mapleton and Swisshome/Deadwood to help with coverage of the Florence area as SVFR focused its efforts and resources on containing the structure fire.
According to a statement from SVFR Chief Director Jim Langborg, the incident was quickly contained but was still destructive.
“On arrival, fire personnel found the back portion of the business and retail building on fire. The building sustained heavy fire, smoke and heat damage,” said Langborg, who predicted the building would likely be a total loss.
“There were no injuries or other buildings damaged,” he added. “The cause of the fire is currently under investigation.”
Temperature levels in the burned building were reported to have reached more than 500 degrees, shattering windows and severely damaging the interior of the building that serves as the office for Mechelle Giger, a longtime member of Frontier’s management team.
Giger has worked at Frontier for 19 years and said she looks at her workplace as much more than a job.
“I’ve been crying since I walked out to the building,” she said. They tell me it started over in the snack shack and it went from there. We have tour groups coming later this week, so we’ll still be doing business later in the week — just not the next couple of days.”
According to Giger, the next step is to get all the equipment and office supplies replaced so that the business can re-open by Thursday.
Giger has been in contact with the Chuck Chapman, owner of Sand Dunes Frontier, who was raised in Florence and currently lives in Beaverton. He intends to be at the site Wednesday to meet with the insurance and fire inspector.
“I’ve been here a lot of years and this is basically my second home,” Giger said. “Chuck’s mom and dad started the business. I worked with his mom for a lot of years, and she passed away a couple of years ago. It breaks my heart to see the building that was here in 1959 is gone. This was her life and now those memories are gone. But not completely, because the business is still here.
“I love this place and these people, and we will just get started all over again on Thursday.”