Westport community helps volunteer firefighter who lost home in fire

Last Monday, the Westport-Wauna Rural Fire Protection District responded to a house fire just minutes after midnight.
Published: Jul. 17, 2023 at 10:22 PM PDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

CLATSOP COUNTY, Ore. (KPTV) - A couple in Westport lost everything after a fire destroyed their home. Now, the town of less than 400 is stepping up to help them as investigators work to find a cause.

Last Monday, the Westport-Wauna Rural Fire Protection District responded to a house fire just minutes after midnight. It was the home of one of their volunteer firefighters, Jeff Hazen, who was out of town.

“Shortly after midnight I was awoken by my cell phone,” said Hazen. “As a member of the volunteer fire department we get dispatched via an app on our phone. I looked at the dispatch codes and saw there was a fire in Westport. It was a neighbor’s address on there, but the description said that the house behind them was fully engulfed and there was someone standing outside screaming. I immediately knew that it was our house. I was in St. Helens at the time. I got up, got dressed, and raced back to Westport.”

Hazen wasn’t home, but his wife Ronda was. She was sleeping, but was woken up by their smoke detectors going off. Neighbors heard her screaming before she collapsed on the front porch, thankfully she was pulled to safety.

“It was only later on, a couple days later that we found out about the heroic actions of two of our citizens here in our community,” said Greg Brody, the Fire Chief for Westport-Wauna Rural Fire Protection District.

“We discovered that Breanne Hendricks and Alex Hansen had arrived long before we had heard her screaming. Breanne was first here and noticed a victim on the front porch literally under the flames and intense heat. She went up and grabbed her under the arms and drug her away from the house. She was unable to move on her own. That’s when Alec arrived and assisted in getting her farther away to safety. We are very proud of our citizens in Westport. We are always amazed and we very much like when we can get help like that, especially when it avoids a very tragic result.”

The fire district plans on recognizing Hendricks and Hansen at it’s board meeting next month. The district wrote in a Facebook post: ‘Please join us at our next board meeting on August 9th, 7PM at our community center (located adjacent to our fire station at 91177 Westport Ferry Rd), where we will l hold a presentation recognizing their heroic acts.

Hazen says he’s thankful for others who have stepped in to help them.

“When I got there the fire was still burning,” said Hazen. “Our neighbors had gotten my wife away from the house. She was in front of the neighbor’s house being cared for by our neighbors, medics, and Clatskanie Fire’s chaplain. One of the really neat things that happened when we were getting ready to leave was Ronda didn’t have any shoes on and the chaplain from Clatskanie Fire, she took her shoes off and let Ronda wear them. It was probably the most selfless act of kindness that I have ever personally witnessed.”

A friend also started a GoFundMe for the Hazens.

“It’s overwhelming,” said Hazen. “One of my classmates from high school started a GoFundMe on our behalf. I greatly appreciate that. We do have insurance and things, but there are so many immediate needs. That GoFundMe has been helping us with clothing and eating and the initial costs of the motel rooms we have been staying in. I had to come to the house the other day and our neighbor, who is also on the fire department with me handed me an envelope from the volunteer firefighters and it had cash in it to help us also. It’s very humbling to be on the other side and receive the support we’ve been getting.”

Hazen says it’s been traumatic and emotional for both he and his wife. They lost their 21-year-old Yorkie named Bindy in the fire.

The house was a total loss and the cause of the fire is undetermined, but they plan on rebuilding.

“Next we are looking for a new house,” said Hazen. “We want to get a house put back on the property, so we are going to start that process tomorrow. We will be moving to a different motel next week once we check out of the one we’re at in Portland right now. The insurance company has a company they contract with that is seeking a little more permanent temporary housing, like a rental house. So they are working on that for us so we don’t have to spend the next several months in a motel room.”