WALLOWA — A fire that likely started in an attached woodshed severely damaged the home of 84-year-old Merel Hawkins on Bear Creek Road southwest of Wallowa on Tuesday afternoon, April 13.
Firefighters from Wallowa, Lostine, Enterprise and Joseph responded along with Oregon Department of Forestry fire crews.
The house was a total loss, said Merel Hawkins’ daughter, Mary Hawkins, on Saturday.
“The fire looked like it started in the woodshed,” she said. “It spread really fast.”
Merel Hawkins was shaken, but unhurt and consoled by family, friends and neighbors at the scene. His caregiver, Michaela Shane, had taken the wheelchair-bound family patriarch and former packer out the front door to safety promptly at the first sign of smoke before the fire spread.
The property includes the Hawkins Sisters Chicken Ranch, where several sparks landed.
“Thanks to the Lostine Fire Department’s careful work, nothing caught fire, including a trailer I had that was full of hay,” Mary Hawkins said.
ODF fire crews extinguished a grass fire that spread about 200 feet from the house. She also praised the quick arrival of the Wallowa Fire Department.
“They were here fighting the fire in only 11 minutes after we called,” she said.
She also praised Lending Heart Community Resources. The Wallowa nonprofit provided replacement equipment to meet her father’s medical needs so he could comfortably take up residence at the Mingo Motel after the fire, she said.
Although the house and a significant amount of memorabilia were lost, Merel Hawkins remains upbeat.
“Dad’s said it’s a chance for a new start,” Mary Hawkins said. “I just hope I can have that kind of attitude when I’m 84.”