By HANNAH SIEVERT
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS
Wildfires raged near Central Oregon on Tuesday, creating an apocalyptic scene along Highway 22 near Mill City.
The fire has destroyed buildings, closed highways and recreation areas and sent evacuees to Salem and Redmond for help.
The Beachie Creek Fire on the Willamette National Forest is estimated at around 131,000 acres as of Tuesday. It grew from around 500 acres on Monday night.
“About 12:00 this morning the fire behavior got so erratic up there,” Galbraith said. “It moved into town within about 1,000 feet of our house.”
Stephen Galbraith and his wife were one of many Detroit residents who evacuated from their home because of the fast-moving Beachie Creek Fire east of Salem.
Galbraith and his wife left Detroit early Tuesday morning to the Deschutes County Fairgrounds, where the Red Cross set up an evacuation site. They’re still waiting to hear if their house is still standing.
“Tremendous amounts of debris on the highway,” Galbraith said. “The winds were apocalyptic.”
Video from a Marion County Sheriff’s Office deputy driving through Mill City shows buildings burning to the ground along the side of Highway 22.
Monday night’s wind storm caused both the Beachie Creek Fire and the Lionshead Fire to grow.
The Lionshead Fire on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation grew to more than 27,000 acres and spread onto the Willamette National Forest.
As of Tuesday, the fire is expected to spread further due to strong east winds and continued low humidity.
“Up until a few days ago, we were maybe at an average or below-average season,” Kassidy Kern, public information officer for the Central Oregon Fire Management Service, said. “Then this wind event happened and now this is definitely on par with some of our worst fire years.”
Crews are also working to contain the Holiday Farm Fire burning on both sides of Highway 126 and the McKenzie River.
The fire started Monday and is estimated at 37,000 acres, according to the Oregon State Fire Marshal.
Officials told Central Oregon Daily News partner KVAL that 80 to 100 structures in Blue River were destroyed Monday night and Tuesday, and crews are still working to find anyone trapped in their homes.
According to the Oregon State Fire Marshal, firefighters helped 46 people escape the evacuation zone this afternoon.
Officials told KVAL the community could expect fatalities from the Holiday Farm Fire.
Crews are also working to contain the Two Four Two Fire south of Bend near Chiloquin.
The fire, which also grew after Monday’s winds, is estimated to be at 6,000 acres with no containment, as of Tuesday evening.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown approved an emergency conflagration declaration that freed up state resources for several wildfires that exceed the capabilities of local crews.
At a news conference Tuesday, she said initial reports show some blazes may have been caused by downed power lines.
“This is proving to be an unprecedented and significant fire event for our state, and frankly for the entire West Coast,” Brown said.
Oregon 22, U.S. 20 and Oregon 126 are all closed to traffic. So is the Mckenzie Pass Highway.
About 40 miles of I-5, from California border through Medford, are also closed.
You can see more closures and updates here: https://www.tripcheck.com/
The fires forced the Oregon Department of Corrections to evacuate three Salem prisons due to threats from the Beachie Creek and Lionshead wildfires.
All employees and adults in custody (AICs) from Oregon State Correctional Institution (OSCI), Santiam Correctional Institution (SCI), and Mill Creek Correctional Facility (MCCF) have been relocated to the Oregon State Penitentiary (OSP).
Additionally, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) to issue a statewide fire ban and close some parks.
The following parks are closed to all visitors until further notice or unless otherwise noted:
- Silver Falls State Park near Silverton
- Detroit Lake campground and Mongold day-use area near Detroit
- North Santiam State Park near Mehama
- Collier Memorial State Park near Klamath Falls, closed the remainder of September, which is when its normal camping season ends
These parks were evacuated early Tuesday. Information for evacuation centers, which are not operated by OPRD, will be published at stateparks.oregon.gov when it is available.
Additionally, these parks closed the afternoon of Sep. 8 with visitors now leaving:
- All state parks and boat ramps on Fall Creek Reservoir — including Winberry day-use area, North Shore day-use area and Cascara campground — are closed until further notice
- Cape Lookout State Park near Tillamook will close through Sep. 10 due to power outages and limited water supply related to high winds
The Associated Press contributed to this report