Significant objects keep emerging from the Kayak Shed fire.
As cleanup at the Oak Street site concludes, owner John Hart is grateful for what keeps surfacing, buoyantly, from the blackened ashes of the Sept. 27 blaze that destroyed the building.
Besides some paper files and computer hard drives that were found three weeks ago, two happy surprises came up as Beam Excavating sifted through the rubble and made new discoveries. The first was a rolled up U.S. flag, standing upright next to a bookcase in the basement and barely singed.
The second was a 12-foot kayak, the only one among dozens to survive.
Meanwhile, the cause of the fire has been ruled electrical, a malfunction occurring in the basement on the north side of the building, according to Scott Reynier of Columbia River Insurance, following investigation by insurance investigators and the State Fire Marshal’s office. Witnesses that night reported seeing the flames coming out of the north side of the building. Building owner Vinnie Schlosser said the long-term plans for the property are unknown.
“We just want to get it cleaned up and safe, for now. I would assume we will have some use because it’s still a good piece of property,” Schlosser said.
Hart, who is certain he wants to revive his kayak shop but is also mulling his next steps, plans to donate the Jackson kayak to a Heroes on the Water event next summer in Depoe Bay.
“A kayak shop is a vital part of Hood River: a vital part of the quiltwork of this community and I really want to see a kayak shop be a part of this community,” Hart said. “I don’t know how exactly it will happen, but I want to make sure it happens moving forward. The future is uncertain, but that’s what I want to have happen.”
Heroes on the Water holds a fundraiser and fishing competition that gives veterans the chance to get out on the water and to win bragging rights and other prizes, possibly the kayak.
Hart and employee Jake Bouchelle loaded up the kayak Wednesday after Beam employees brought it back to the scene.
“I was up there watching and saw them uncover it,” Hart said of the Jackson fishing kayak. “I didn’t think it was good, and said ‘You guys keep it,’ but I thought about Heroes, and that would be good use and I called them and they said, ‘it’s yours,’ and brought it back down.” Along with it came the paddles, fishing rod holders, and the cloth seat, all intact. The red paint is mottled with dark spots, but no other damage.
How it survived the consuming blaze, when all other kayaks had melted, is a mystery to Hart.
“I don’t know what helped protect it, a little wrap that melted to the front, and some of it is still there,” Hart said. “It was in a unique spot in the building, and the wrap might have been a bit of a buffer, but it’s another of those unexplained things.”
Hart said that another “fun spin on the whole story” is that the Heroes on the Water event is officially known as the Rockfish Classic, and the kayak’s red color is “rockfish,” for the marine species.
The classic “is really about getting a bunch of veterans out, and it’s also a fundraiser for a local kids’ program,” Hart explained. The winner gets the kayak as grand prize.
“Every year they try to get a U.S.-made boat, but it’s tough because it’s still a growing event, and we’re trying to make it bigger,” Hart said, adding, “That’s why this is a perfect tie in: the Jackson is U.S.-made, and the one boat that survived the fire.”