Volunteers give heroic efforts to save Breitenbush Hot Springs Retreat lodge

Image provided to KPTV

DETROIT, OR (KPTV) - The stories emerging from Oregon wildfires are nothing short of heartbreaking, but among the tragedies are plenty of tales of courage.

A Breitenbush volunteer firefighter is among a handful of residents and other firefighters credited with saving buildings and homes in around the Breitenbush Hot Springs Retreat and Conference Center outside Detroit.

Clasen showed FOX 12 video that he took showing the Lionhead Fire ripping through the resort and neighboring communities.

“This is me in the golf cart right after we got there at the guest cabins,” Clasen said. “Both sides were burning when we got there as well as the bridge between the two.”

“The summer homes next door – there’s 80-ish summer homes that people rent on the National Forest Land and by the time we got there they were all fully involved.”

Clasen gets his paychecks from the Clackamas Fire District but he gives back to his community by volunteering with the community he loves, working with the Breitenbush Fire Department.

Clasen worked the overnight shift in Clackamas County on Monday and then raced up to Breitenbush Tuesday to help save as many buildings and homes as possible.

Seeing homes in area on fire was especially tough for the veteran firefighter.

“I knew the people whose houses they were, and when we were losing one, I knew whose house that was,” Clasen said. “We knew we were going to have to see them and look them in the eyes and tell them we did everything we could.”

But it wasn’t entirely a losing battle, Clasen and just a small handful of other men were able to save the resort’s historic lodge and some other important building.

“The kitchen is right here,” said Clasen pointing to another video on his phone. “You’ll see it as I turn – that was the kitchen and the lodge is right here so those were some of the buildings we were really trying to protect.”

Between his firefighting job and volunteer work, there’s little rest for the weary.

Clasen has worked all but one day the last week.

Thursday he is returning to Breitenbush and Detroit to hand out water, Gatorade and snacks for first responders and others who are helping to control the fires and mitigate the damage and cleanup.

Clasen said that between the pandemic, and now the fires, the Breitenbush Fire Department is running short on funding and expects to bring in fewer dollars this year. Fire staff have set up a donation link for anyone who can help them out.

If you’d like to help donate to the fire department you can do so here.

Copyright 2020 KPTV-KPDX Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.

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