By BROOKE SNAVELY
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS
Fires in the Santiam and McKenzie River canyons continue to grow, but firefighters are making progress opening roadways.
This has created critical access for crews to effect rescues and to begin learning the extent of the destruction.
“We left thinking we were going to have a home so we left with not much,” said Denise Moyle, a North Fork Road resident north of Mill City.
Moyle’s home is one of many damaged or destroyed in Mill City, Gates, Lyons, Mehama and Detroit along the Highway 22 corridor.
Officials don’t know yet how many homes and structures were burned. Damage assessments are just beginning and could take days to complete.
“I don’t know where my family’s going to go,” Moyle said. “I don’t know where my critters are going to be. I just don’t want to put people out.”
Moyle and her family got out in time. Others were cut off by downed trees, couldn’t evacuate and were forced to shelter in creeks and lakes to escape the smoke, heat and flames.
Randall Rishe was working as a public information officier at the Beachie Creek Incident Command Post in Gates when wind knocked down power lines that sparked and caught the building on fire.
“I immediately put on my yellows, someone put a tool in my hand. I had my gloves and a hardhat and began digging a fire break around our incident command post,” Rishe said.
Downed power lines sparked a dozen fires that eventually merged together into an inferno that spread at a rate of more than 2 acres per second.
The Lionshead Fire that started on the Warm Springs Reservation has merged with the Beachie Creek Fire.
Combined, the two fires have blackened nearly 300,000 acres.
Calmer weather is allowing firefighters to begin establishing control lines but the danger is far from over.
Fallen trees, hanging snags and downed power lines still block many roads and the public is asked to stay clear.
The Marion County Sheriff’s Office says it is patrolling the fire damaged areas looking for people engaged in criminal behavior.
Only one of three highways between the Valley and Central Oregon is open, Highway 20 Tombstone Pass to Albany.
Highway 22 to Salem through Detroit is closed by the Beachie Creek Fire.
Eugene is not accessible via Highway 126, that route is closed by the Holiday Farm Fire.
Before heading out, check first because road conditions could change.