A conversation with Frankie Petrick, Yachats Fire Chief
-- Wherein we discuss fires, rabbits, goats, and more --
TYG: So what’s been going on lately?
Frankie: We received a call from our dispatch center that said there was a fire in a stump up in a wooded area, and somebody would show us the way in. So we headed south, and it was in the Cummins Creek Trail. An elk hunter had gone up there one day, and he smelled some smoke and he thought that it was kind of irresponsible for someone to be camping in a wooded area with a fire, but he goes on his way. The next day he smelled it again, and once again he thinks, “That wasn’t a very smart thing to do,” and he was hoping it wasn’t an elk hunter who had gone off and left their fire. He’s going on up the trail, and he comes around the corner, and voila—there is a HUGE hemlock tree, burning inside—probably a 125-foot tall tree and the whole inside of it is just shooting flames out and roaring....
TYG: How do you suppose it caught fire?
Frankie: Well, we don’t know. It wasn’t struck by lightning. So of course the other possibility is a careless human; however, we have nothing to substantiate that. It wasn’t where somebody had camped and made a fire in the base of the tree, so we don’t know. The fire was hot enough that we kept the fire contained and put the surrounding area out, waiting for the Forest Service to arrive, because it’s really their fire, when it’s up in the woods like that. And they were unable to get the fire out, so they had to fell the tree so they could get it extinguished so that it wouldn’t spread to other trees and burn a large patch of the wilderness area. They don’t like to fell trees in the wilderness area, because of course a wilderness area is supposed to be following some kind of a natural pattern of trees growing old and falling over and new trees growing. But because of the potential to burn a whole bunch of trees, they felled that one to extinguish it. That was pretty exciting.
TYG: What about the rabbit?
Frankie: Ah, the rabbit! Well, yesterday we get a phone call from a gentleman who says, “So, I was wondering what you do about lost and found for animals.” Usually our calls are about sea lions, seal pups, and the occasional dog. So they [the staff members handling phones] were expecting the man to say, “Well, I found a seal on the beach that was all by itself,” but this man says, “Well, we have this rabbit that showed up at our house, and it’s in our garage, and we don’t know what to do with it.” And so they said, “Well, what do you want us to do?” “Well,” he says, “I’m hoping that you can come get the rabbit and find where it belongs.” So I go over and sure enough, there is a very nice white bunny with brown ears, well cared for, fat and sassy, in a little cat carrier, who doesn’t appear to be hurt, doesn’t have signs that anything hurt it....
TYG: So it’s very clear that it’s a pet....
Frankie: Or at least domestic. It’s not a wild bunny. So I bring it over, and I’m thinking... Rabbits can go pretty fast, but they don’t usually go very far. Maybe a block or two. And so I’m thinking about who along this street, or First Street, or Third Street, could possibly have a rabbit... because most of the houses are either empty, or have senior citizens in them—unlikely that they would have a rabbit. Then I see a house where some people have only lived for a short time, and they’re a young couple, and they have a little boy. And I said, “I’ll betcha it’s their rabbit.” And sure enough, it was.
TYG: How was the beach clean-up?
Frankie: The beach clean-up happens twice a year, of course. Most of the people who participate in the beach clean-up walk the beach and pick up stuff. But we go down in our truck to pick up things that are too big to be picked up by people and put in a sack. We go from Perch Street to the Visitors Center in Waldport, right by the Alsea Bay Bridge, and look for things that are large. This year we didn’t have any tires, or refrigerators, but a couple pieces of dock, and nothing as exciting as the big piece of plastic we found several years ago.
Frankie: Sometimes things wash off of ships. Sometimes people just dump stuff carelessly, and they end up on the beach. Anyway, there was a big chunk of half-melted plastic that we thought might possibly be biohazard—but it turned out that [it was] just [partially incinerated] garbage from a ship, bags from China, where the red didn’t mean biohazard. We carried it around for a while and then took it to the dump.
TYG: Tell us about your goats!
Frankie: My goats! Well, I assume you mean Buttons and Oreo, who are African pygmies, and they’re spoiled rotten. They’re both neutered males, called wethers, and they’re just pets. Unlike my farm goats, which eat brush at home—happily eating away at blackberries, and ROSES—I don’t care for them to eat my roses, but sometimes they do anyway.
TYG: How many goats do you have?
Frankie: Well, seven at home, seven farm goats. One of them is deaf, and nearly blind. I don’t know how old she is, but she’s over 17.
TYG: What other animals do you have?
Frankie: Cows—I have a calf that was born on January 28th last year, whose mother died, and so she became what’s called the “bummer calf,” because she had no mother. So I bottle fed her, and now she’s almost nine months old, and soon she’ll be ready to go in with the rest of the herd of cows. But she still thinks she’s little. She runs around after me just like I was....
TYG: So you’re her mommy.
Frankie: I’m her mommy, yes. I had one a few years ago I bought as a calf, and she still thought she was my little calf when she was twenty. I have one horse that must be 28 or 29 now[....] And a peacock.
TYG: How long have you been involved with Yachats Fire Department?
Frankie: Well, let’s see... 36 years. And before that, when I was a kid, my dad was on the Waldport Fire Department, and I used to go fires with him.
TYG: Were you born in Yachats?
Frankie: No, I was actually born in Boise, Idaho, because my mother went on vacation [laughs], to visit some family. So I had a very brief time in Boise, Idaho. [I was born] in Kraft’s Maternity Home—because babies weren’t born in hospitals then. You just went to someone’s home, where there was a midwife, and you stayed there for a few days while you had your baby, and then off you went. As far as I know they don’t have any of those any longer.
TYG: One more question. Did you always know that you were going to work for the fire department?
Frankie: Oh, no—I didn’t have any particular thoughts about that. I was going to be a high school science teacher, and then changed to doing veterinary medicine. But I have a whole bunch of allergies. And some very wise allergist said, “You might not want to put a lot of money into veterinary science, when you may not be able to do it.” So I came to Yachats, from the big city of Waldport, and went to work at the Adobe, and worked there in the office for several years. And then my dad and I built the golf course in Waldport. My uncle, who is 100 years old, and lives up the Yachats River, when I was little we would always go up there and I always told him, “I want to be a farmer.” So—that’s where I live.
INTERVIEW: VICKY PRINCE OF YA-HOTS VIDEO
TYG: So what’s going on with the shop?
Vicky: Ya-Hots Video is expanding, and we’re going to be changing what we have available. We will have seeds and farm supplies as well starts and garden supplies. We’re going to have spices and potentially flour and other dry goods. We will be offering seeds from The Thyme Garden and Peaceful Valley Farm Supply and Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. Also materials like weed cloth and seed starters and trays. We’re also going to be expanding the office supplies. We’ll continue to offer copies and faxes and notary services. We’re going to have a laptop available for people to plug in their flash drives and print out documents.
TYG: What about chickens?
Vicky: Chickens will depend on city ordinance! We hope that people will be able to pick up their chickens here instead of up at the house.
TYG: Any Thanksgiving specials?
Vicky: We have dramas on special for the month of November, and like all of our movie specials, it’s five movies for three days for three dollars. We hope to have everything ready by the first of December, so we will be closed for a couple of days following Thanksgiving weekend.
Valerie Odenthal at Antique Virgin: “Antique Virgin now carries Haiku products—purses, bags, and wallets. They are a green product, using all recycled materials, mainly water bottles, and they are vegan-friendly. We also carrying repurposed cashmere—recycled cashmere scarves, doggie clothes, and dog collars.”
Gary Church, Toppers Ice Cream and Candy: “We’ve got two new flavors of ice cream: black cherry, and mountain blackberry. We have pumpkin cheesecake fudge. Our hours for the winter are 11-5, and right now we’re open seven days a week.”
Valeria at Toad Hall: “We’re going to have tie-dyed T-shirts for Christmas. Far out!”
Interview: LOU CAPUTO OF 4TH ST. CAFé
TYG: So what’s going on with the shop?
Lou: Well, we just opened, and we’re getting our business up and running. We’re offering homemade food to go or to eat here. We serve a variety of fresh baked goods in the morning, lunch in the afternoon including hot soups every day, sandwiches, salads, and homemade Italian food. Saturday is lasagna day. We have organic free-trade coffee. We’re just getting our business started, and were having a lot of fun.
TYG: So how did you get the idea to open this place?
Lou: I always wanted to have my own cafe. It’s been a long-term dream of mine that finally came to fruition last winter when the previous owners told me they were going to be moving. I had to make a decision either to rent it to somebody else, or to step up and do what I’ve always wanted to do.
TYG: What’s your background?
Lou: My background is rather diverse. I’m actually an amateur chef who’s been a builder in Yachats for 20 years. I was smart enough to hire some talented people. Darlene Howeth is a professional chef and baker, and she’s been in the culinary industry her whole life. I told her my idea, and she came down and looked at our cafe, and decided that she would come here and work with us, so were really happy to have her. She does most of our baking. She makes fabulous pies and breads, soups, other desserts. She’s a very creative cook.
TYG: How’d you come to Yachats?
Lou: Oh, like a lot of people, you drive into Yachats and you stop your car, and you go “Oh my Gosh—this is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen.” And that was 12 years ago. We just fell in love with Yachats, and never looked back.
TYG: Any Thanksgiving specials?
Lou: Yes! We’re taking orders for Thanksgiving pies and cheesecakes: apple-walnut-custard pie, bourbon-pecan pie, chocolate-pecan pie, pumpkin-pecan cheesecake, and pumpkin pie. The apple pie and the pumpkin cheesecake can be made without nuts. Call us at 541-547-4494 to place your order.