SCAPPOOSE, Ore. -- Robert Hales died Sunday afternoon, Aug. 17, in a single-car accident on Scappoose-Vernonia Road, a half mile from his home in Chapman. The vehicle left the road. He had completed a 12-hour shift fighting wildfires with the Scappoose Fire Department and returned home. He left again with his middle daughter, Katie, who was with him at the time of the accident.
Katie ran the half mile home to report the accident. The accident call was made to 9-1-1, and Scappoose Fire Department first responders answered the call.
Hales started volunteering with the Scappoose Rural Fire Department in 2000. He was a responder at the Chapman Fire Station. In 2001 he was named "Volunteer of the Year" by his fire department colleagues.
"He was wonderful," said Cheryl Engstrom, Scappoose Fire Department public information officer.
"Quiet, gentle, kind," said Ronda Melton, Scappoose Fire Department public information officer.
Both women had tears in their eyes as they spoke about Hales.
"Very reliable," said Engstrom.
"Calm in any storm," said Melton.
They said he was an even-tempered family man.
"We used to tease him about his zoo," said Engstrom. "It seemed that his kids were always getting another animal to take care of."
"They had ducks, geese, chickens and other small animals," said Melton.
Hales' daughters Heather, Katie and Sandra are active in 4-H, and for their family that meant animals.
The Hales live a peaceful life in Chapman; except when a wildcat moseyed out of the forest and got some of their chickens.
Hales volunteered for years at the Columbia County Fair.
"He was here way before I was," said Ronda Courtney, Columbia County Fair and Event Complex manager.
"He was the camping superintendent for years," Courtney said. "It's a huge job, managing campsites, campers and trying to keep all the comings and goings straight."
This year, Hales volunteered at the fair, working until after midnight some nights to make sure everything was taken care of. He could fix almost anything and everything. He willingly took ice and supplies to concession stands, and helped out wherever an extra hand was needed.
"He was so reliable," said Courtney.
Hales' death leaves a big hole in the fabric of the community.
"Everybody liked him," said Scappoose Fire Chief Mike Greisen.
Greisen, Melton and Engstrom all said Hales was liked by everyone. He never got mad or upset. He got along with everyone.
"It's very hard to loose him," Greisen said.
Republished with permission of The South County Spotlight.
Funeral services for Firefighter Hales will be held Monday, Aug. 25 at 10 a.m. in the gymnasium at Scappoose High School in Scappoose, Ore.