ILWACO — Douglas L. Mattox is dead after a fire ripped through his home in a gated RV park on Sunday.
The trailer was engulfed in black smoke and flames by the time firefighters arrived to the 3000 block of Sandridge Road just after 3 p.m., Pacific County Fire District 1 Assistant Chief Brad Weatherby said.
Long Beach and Ilwaco firefighters helped put out the blaze in the Safari Association of Ilwaco lot. A victim believed to be Mattox was found in the smoldering remains of his home.
Although officials are still waiting for an autopsy to confirm, Weatherby said Mattox’s family had been notified.
His sister Julie Martin shared what she described on Facebook as a “rather humorous, somewhat macabre, twist” to the story. Mattox apparently stored a lot of illegal fireworks at his place. His neighbors told Martin they’d tried to contain the flames until help arrived but had to back off when the fireworks started going off.
“I had to laugh,” she wrote. “He went out with a bang.”
Mattox was 57. His sister Marci Bennett told the Observer he suffered with heart problems and diabetes.
Bennett, who runs a dessert-catering business and is known for her pies, also shared her feelings on Facebook.
“I loved you so much, Doug,” she wrote. “I’m glad you’re not in pain anymore. You battled with life everyday. I know you were ready to go. We will miss you very much.”
Mattox is survived by his son, Dustin Mattox, father Robert Mattox, stepmother Johnni Dolan, brother David Mattox, his sisters, brothers-in-law Don Bennett and Bill Martin, uncle Roger DeHart, aunt Leila Mattox, nephews, nieces and cousins.
The family noted they were thankful no one else was hurt in the fire. Although Mattox’s home was destroyed, they were glad neighbors’ property wasn’t damaged.
The Safari Association is a membership RV park, according to its website. Members pay dues to stay in the park’s 322 lots and use various amenities.
The park, a nonprofit corporation, maintains ownership of the 20-acre property.
It’s a crowded place and it does not have fire hydrants, which makes it tough to fight fires there, volunteer fire captain Gary Forner said.
“It’s a place that concerns a lot of people,” Forner, a longtime city councilman and candidate for Ilwaco mayor, said.
Safari caretaker Dana Radford referred questions about the park to its board president but declined to provide contact information.
The Pacific County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the cause of the fire and the fatality. Chief Criminal Deputy Pat Matlock said foul play is not suspected.
It took 23 firefighters about two-and-a-half hours to finish work at the scene before turning the fire investigation over to law enforcement, Weatherby said.
The career and volunteer firefighters didn’t get much a break before the next Sunday blaze. Just before midnight, 18 firefighters took on a house fire on the 600 block of Willow Street in Ilwaco, city Fire Chief Tom Williams said.
A neighbor saw flames outside the home, called for help and knocked on a window to wake the owner. Williams said fire alarms weren’t going off but with neighbor’s alert, the owner escaped without injury.
The chief estimates at least $50,000 worth of damage to the house. The cause of the fire is being investigated.
Monday didn’t come with a chance for firefighters to mellow out either. The calls kept coming, including a close one at the Port of Ilwaco pot shop Freedom Market. An afternoon shopper apparently hadn’t put out a cigarette before going inside the store.
Fortunately, firefighters were quick to respond. They put out the small blaze before anyone was hurt or property was damaged.
Earlier in the day, they rushed to a call that turned out to be a false alarm at the Surf Pines apartments in Ilwaco and fought a brush fire in Long Beach. Forner said he was glad volunteers and professionals from the three local fire agencies had been pitching in to help each other out at emergencies.
“Without it, we’d have been dead in the water, to use Coast Guard phrasing,” the retired Cape Disappointment park ranger said.