When the historic Oswald West log cabin burned in 1991 due to an act of arson, JoAnne Cremer was one of the firefighters on the scene battling the blaze for hours.
It was one of the most memorable moments in Cremer’s 32 years as a Cannon Beach volunteer firefighter.
“It was the night of my birthday,” she said. “We were there until late in the evening or early morning. It was the hottest fire I have ever fought in my life because of the logs … We all worked really hard that night.”
Cremer was recently featured as Cannon Beach Fire and Rescue firefighter of the month, recognized for her longtime commitment and for being “probably the most positive person with one of the best smiles.”
Cremer decided to join the fire district after living in Cannon Beach for several years and getting to know local firefighters.
“I just decided it was a way I could give back to the community,” she said.
Cremer said the “love of it” motivates her to continue firefighting.
“This is like my other job — my unpaid job,” she said. “Once you get into an organization like this and become so close with everybody, it’s like having a second family. For some of us, it’s our first family. I think that’s why I continue it, just the love of it and wanting to continue to help people, to try and make people’s lives easier.”
“Sometimes you have calls that aren’t all roses,” she added.
Cremer has been the Cannon Beach Fire and Rescue safety officer for seven years. She oversees the scene at car accidents, fires or medical calls to ensure volunteers are wearing personal protective equipment and heads a safety committee, discussing policies each month.
Volunteer firefighters participate in regular Wednesday trainings. “Sometimes the drills are really exciting,” Cremer said.
Trainings might involve “burn to learns,” in which people donate their old homes or motor vehicles for the team of volunteers to burn for a period of time. These drills allow volunteers to gain experience with handling actual fires.
“We might set up a smoke machine and a ‘body’ in there that we might have to find to keep us in touch with what could honestly happen in a real fire,” Cremer said. “We have mock motor vehicle accidents, and sometimes in the summer we have a mock rescue in the ocean where we deploy our Jet Skis.”
Cremer holds certifications in fire fighter II, apparatus operator, emergency medical responder and water rescue technician. Cannon Beach volunteer firefighters have access to courses that provide continued education, she said.
Cremer was also a Cannon Beach lifeguard for 25 years, more than 15 years full time. Though she remembers some serious rescues, Cremer also recalls the camaraderie among her fellow lifeguards.
“It was wonderful,” she said. “You’re paid to be at the beach.”
For 21 years, Cremer has worked at the same landscaping company, where she enjoys “being able to beautify things.”
She likes walking away from a yard and thinking, “Wow, that looks so good.”
“I love working outside, even in the rain,” she added.
Cremer has also fished commercially for sockeye salmon in Alaska’s Bristol Bay, taught in the experimental education unit at the University of Washington and taught preschool in Cannon Beach — “when it was down by the kite shop.”
Cremer grew up in Portland and moved to Cannon Beach in 1980.
“I always wanted to live at the coast, even as a little kid,” she said. She appreciates “the close-knit community and the amazing beauty of the beach and our surroundings.”
In her spare time, Cremer enjoys taking her active dog, Sailor, on walks, hiking, mountain biking and cycling.
An avid cyclist, Cremer often bikes to Astoria and around Fort Stevens. She has also started century riding — biking 100 miles.
“You start at a certain time and you pedal 100 miles,” Cremer said. “You’re out there and it’s like, ‘Yep, I’m doing this.’”