PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Wildfires raging in Marion County reached the town of Mehama along Highway 22 by 6 p.m. Thursday, Oregon Wildfire Joint Incident Command said.
OR-22 is closed from seven miles west of Mehama to one mile west of Santiam Highway, according to transportation officials.
Marion County remains in a State of Emergency as wildfires continue to roar throughout the county — including the Beachie Creek fire, which is now burning over 180,000 acres.
Marion County Level 3 evacuations remain in place for Lyons, Mehama, Mill City, Gates, Detroit, Idanha, North Fork Area, Breitenbush and Highway 214 north of Silver Falls State Park to Scotts Mill. Officials say 9,764 structures are at Level 3 evacuations and another 11,941 homes are under in Level 2 evacuations.
The Beachie Creek Fire has grown to 182,000 acres as of Thursday morning. The inferno is now a part of the greater Santiam Fire Complex and has nearly joined with the Lionshead fire at the east end of Detroit Lake — which is currently burning just under 110,000 acres.
There are currently over 400 fire personnel working to tame the blaze. The situation got so bad that at one point — fire crews considered airlifting people from the dock at Detroit Lake before finding an alternate route out.
Sgt. Jeremy Landers with the Marion County Sheriff’s Office told KOIN 6 News they have not been able to confirm any reports of fatalities or how many structures were destroyed because the raging fires make some areas inaccessible.
He said they’re aware some people chose not to leave. They really want people to pay close attention to the evacuation levels and not to go into areas that have already been evacuated.
Heartbreak and looting
Michelle Behrens-Webb told KOIN 6 News her brother’s home on Wagner Mountain — which was built by their grandparents — burned to the ground. She said her home in Lyons is OK for now but thinks it’s just a matter of time before it’s gone, too.
“It’s just been like living in hell with this smoke and everything you love going up in smoke,” she said.
Mill City Mayor Tim Kirsch said there’s another issue also going on: looting
“It’s terrible. The looting part is just ridiculous,” Kirsch said. “I really am saddened by that because people have enough to worry about with their property being burned up, let alone stolen.”
He added law enforcement is doing extra patrols to protect people’s property. So far there’s been at least one arrest and the Marion County Sheriff’s Office said they plan to keep that person in custody until they can go to court.
Officials said they know people want to go back and check on their homes, but they want people to stay out for now while all the evacuation orders are in place.
The water reservoir in Mill City went down to critically low levels. They’re trying to shut off all unnecessary water use around town so it’s available for firefighters battling the blazes.
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