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Oso landslide: Firefighter brothers recall recovery effort 5 years later

OSO -- You know you’re getting close once you cross the bridge. There’s a general store and a chapel. And between the two, sits fire station 37. You know it’s Oso, because inside, you’ll find the Harper brothers. Willy is the Chief and Tim is the captain.

This time of year is hard. The reason why is just down the road.

“Just seems like right around these months we’re now waiting for something to happen,” says Willy.

March 22, 2014.

“It was a standard call, like a barn had fell over and blocked the roadway or something,” says Willy.

Willy happened to be close by the fire house. He responded first. But he didn’t find a barn. He couldn’t find anything.

“Being that we are brothers, once he got on the radio and actually started talking I instantly knew there was more to what he was seeing,” says Timmy.

Tim headed straight to the scene.

“Until you’re standing out in it, it’s like a different planet. You might as well just put me on the moon. I knew north, south, east and west, but the magnitude of standing out there it was just mind boggling,” says Timmy.

A landslide had devoured the entire subdivision at Steelhead Drive.

Forty-nine homes gone. Forty-three people missing in the mud.

“I would talk to these family members and they just kept asking questions like ‘Do you think they are going to stop next week?’ ‘What are the chances you’re going to find my person?’ and you start having these conversations and you think to yourself we can not stop until; how can I say we found your person and not yours?,” says Willy.

Willy and Tim made a promise to find them all. They helped lead a team of volunteers day in and day out.

“I don’t think there’s an easy way to explain it, but when you lose 43 community members and ironically you find the last one on day 43 that number resonates,” says Timmy.

They finished the job. They kept their word. That’s the Harper brothers. That’s Oso.

The mud covered so much. But it revealed so much more.

Just beyond the bridge, there’s a nursery and a general store.

And somewhere between the two, you’ll find these two.

And that is how you know you’re in Oso.

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