Nov. 17, 2018 — Siuslaw Valley Fire and Rescue (SVFR) responded Wednesday night at approximately 11:30 p.m. to a house fire at 4558 Arago Street, just off of Rhododendron Drive near Heceta Beach Road. Though the two-story duplex was partially destroyed in the fire, the end result might have been much worse if not for the barking of a neighbor’s dog.
George Roach, the resident of the bottom half of the building that burned, was awakened and evacuated by next-door neighbor Rachel (who requested only her first name be used) after her dog’s persistent barking drew her attention to the fire.
“I just thought there was a raccoon in the yard or something,” Rachel said of her dog’s barking, which eventually prompted her to look away from her television to go to the window, where she saw flames rolling from the upstairs window next door. She then ran to the burning building to make sure Roach was out of the structure before returning home to call 911.
Crews from SVFR and Western Lane Ambulance District (WLAD) arrived a short time later.
According to SVFR/WLAD Interim Chief Director Steve Able, the agencies received the first call about the structure fire at 11:33 p.m. Nov. 14.
“Upon arrival a few minutes later, SVFR Duty Chief Liz Iabichello found the second story of the duplex fully engulfed in flames,” Able said. “After ensuring that the occupant of the lower unit was safely evacuated, she directed fire crews to contain the fire to the involved unit, limiting the spread of the fire.”
WLAD paramedics evaluated Roach and found him to be uninjured, then stood by to care for any firefighter injuries. Four engines, two chief officers, support vehicles and a total of 20 firefighters were on scene throughout the night.
The fire was contained to the upper living unit, which is considered a total loss, with the lower unit suffering water and smoke damage. Because the upper unit was unoccupied, the fire progressed rapidly before being noticed by neighbors, who notified the fire department.
“The cause of the fire is still being investigated but is believed to be of accidental origin. There were no injuries,” Able added.
Roach is retired and disabled, and well-liked by his neighbors, who nicknamed him the “get-it-done-guy” because of the help he gives neighbors with project and repairs. Roach also has a good relationship with property owner Vance Nelson, who had worked out an arrangement for Roach to act as an unofficial caretaker for the property in exchange for a reduced rent. But after seven years, that arrangement is now at an end as Roach, whose financial situation is tenuous at best, now has to find a place to live on his limited income.
He said the event has shaken him up, but that he has received some assistance with temporary housing from the Red Cross.
“They put me at a hotel, but I’m not sure how long that will last,” Roach said. “I’m disabled and am working on getting some help from SOS (Siuslaw Outreach Services) because my clothes and most of my stuff got ruined by water and smoke damage.”
His neighbor, Rachel, set up a GoFundMe fundraising page with Roach’s permission to help assist in his relocation and, hopefully, replacing his possessions damaged during the fire.
“George Roach is known to always be there to help. He is the greatest neighbor I’ve had,” Rachel said on the GoFundMe page. “I’m grateful for the fire department showing up so quickly and for being so helpful to George. It’s so sad to see him so broken. He put so much work into that house. It was his pride and joy. He thought he would live out the rest of his life there. Now he is faced with starting all over.”
Richard Weinhold, another of Roach’s neighbors, has not only contributed to Roach’s fund but also encourages others to help out his friend and neighbor.
“He is such a helpful and friendly guy and a friend to animals too — having first sheltered and then reunited a cat who fled a fire in the RV park with its Canadian family. … Now George is the fire victim,” Weinhold said in a comment posted on the page.
Anyone who would like to assist George Roach can do so by visiting his GoFundMe page at www.gofundme.com/nzjsqw-help-georgerebuild?fbclid=IwAR1BLbraoTaYjIXAT_QjM5pXew7Mr6vjX2IilBARwTnCwPGCbjjP-osgzkM.