PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - The hundreds of firefighters battling the
enormous Florence and Sour Biscuit Fires have managed to save
almost every building in the threatened Illinois Valley.
But they were too late to save the historic McCaleb Ranch, a Boy
Scout camp destroyed July 26.
Boy Scout executive Ed Walsh said it is too soon to say whether
the ranch will be rebuilt.
Located along the Illinois River, 12 miles west of Selma, the
106 acre camp was surrounded by thick forest and had a
three-bedroom ranch house donated to the Boy Scouts in 1960 by the
late Betty McCaleb.
A week after the fire went through, Weiseth said, it is still
too dangerous to enter the camp area to assess the damage. Besides
the ranch house, the camp included two old miner's cabins.
Reports of the camp's destruction came from helicopter
surveillance.
The camp was said to be different from other Boy Scout camps
because of the ruggedness of the terrain, adjacent to the
Kalmiopsis Wilderness. Most Boy Scouts slept in tents, and used the
camp as a base to hike into the wilderness.
"It has some gorgeous timber," Weiseth said. "That's what I'm
really sick about. It can never be replaced, not in my lifetime."
Betty McCaleb had lived on the property from 1927 -- her
husband, Bob, died in 1958. The McCalebs mined gold and chrome,
raised some cattle, and were largely self-sufficient, according to
area news accounts.
Betty McCaleb continued to live in the ranch house until her
death in 1994 at age 94. She is buried on the property next to her
husband.
Weiseth said he hoped the McCaleb headstones had survived. If
not, he said, "We'll build from there. We want to preserve that
site."