By BROOKE SNAVELY
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS
Evacuees from three fires burning out of control in the Santiam Pass area continued arriving in Central Oregon Wednesday.
Many escaped with little more than the clothes on their backs.
The Deschutes County Fairgrounds is serving as the temporary evacuation point for people running for their lives from the Santiam, Lionshead and Holiday Farm fires.
Normally, this would be a place of shelter but these aren’t normal times. The Red Cross is putting up the evacuees in local hotels.
“They said Mill City is burned, you can’t get through to Salem so we got to turn around,” said Idanha resident Charles Dunaway of his 13-hour evacuation ordeal that began at 3 a.m. Tuesday morning.
Dunaway and others took shelter at a day-use area on Detroit Lake where the National Guard planned to airlift them out but poor visibility due to smoke and strong winds prevented that from happening.
“All of the sudden they said we’ve got a small window, we’ve got to go ‘Now, now, now.’ So they took us up Breitenbush all the way up to Highway 26 where you can go left to Portland or right to Bend and Redmond,” he said. “As we headed up toward Breitenbush, we drove through the Beachie Creek Fire, it was burning on both sides of the road and, thankfully, the 59 people that were with us all got to safety.”
The Red Cross is housing and is feeding more than 80 fire evacuees in the Super 8 motel in Redmond.
“Mostly they are confused,” said PJ Johnson, Red Cross volunteer. “Many of them have been woken up in the middle of the night and told they have to leave. So many of them are coming in without clothing, without shoes. We are sending everyone over to a local non-profit organization for those types of things.”
“So far we’ve gotten about 15 households come in who are fire evacuees that are in need of clothing and other necessities, cell phone chargers, things like that,” said Stephanie Dorsey, Social Service Manager, at the Redmond St. Vincent DePaul.
A few evacuees brought pets.
Some said they didn’t have time to round up pets and left them behind.
Now evacuees are worried about whether they have homes to return to.
“We have neighbors in our housing area that have security cameras and as of 9 a.m., the houses in the Rushing River Retreat are still standing,” Dunaway said. “I don’t know anything about Detroit yet.”
For those who want to help fire evacuees, cash or in-kind donations are being accepted by the agencies leading the response: Red Cross, Central Oregon Veterans Outreach, St. Vincent DePaul and Seventh Day Adventist Church in Redmond.