Detroit residents sift through ashes as evacuations ease

Marion County

Detroit, Idanha and the Elkhorn community down to Level 2 at 9 a.m.

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) –– Some of the areas hit hardest by wildfires in Marion County have been downgraded to Level 2 evacuations, meaning some residents were finally able to return to their homes –– or what’s left of them.

As of 9 a.m. on Friday, the cities of Detroit, Idanha and the Elkhorn community along North Fork Road are reduced from Level 3 to Level 2 evacuations. The North Fork Road Level 2 status goes up to the boundary with U.S. Forest Service property near milepost 15.5.

With Friday’s downgrades, the only areas remaining in Level 3 will be Breitenbush and Crooked Finger Road south of the cattle guard.

Roughly half of all homes in Detroit were destroyed in the fire. Like many, Tara Stark is struggling to make sense of what’s left.

“It’s like watching a movie; that’s not us, that’s not our home,” she said. “How many times I stood here and watched my kids walk down the street to the bus stop in the morning.”

Stark stood in the middle of what was once her home, now just rubble and ashes, and pointed out the living room and her children’s rooms. She said they didn’t have time to grab much when they evacuated and were lucky to even make it out alive. Sorting through the debris, Stark found the small urn holding her mother’s ashes.

“More than anything that was my main concern because that’s my mom,” she said.

The amount of destruction wrought by the fire in Detroit is startling but people are already coming together to help each other through the disaster.

“It’s going to be a long road ahead to recover but a lot of people I’ve spoken with say they’re ready to rebuild and say Detroit will come back stronger,” said Stark.

Due to road hazards, ODOT will be using pilot cars to lead residents through the closed sections of Highway 22 East between Gates and Detroit. Residents can travel freely between Detroit and Idanha with Highway 22 E closed to eastbound traffic at milepost 56.2, west of Cooper’s Ridge Road, according to MCSO. There is still no access to the Santiam Pass from the Detroit/Idanha area.

With crews still working to clear downed trees and other debris from the roads, the area between Gates and Detroit will see delays for the inbound and outbound pilot car trips. Residents should expect at least one hour to make a one-way trip.

Pilot cars guiding residents between Gates and Detroit will be limited to the following daily schedule:

• 9 a.m. – Pilot car departs Gates to Detroit
• 11 a.m. – Pilot car returns from Detroit to Gates
• 1 p.m. – Pilot car departs Gates to Detroit
• 5 p.m. – Pilot car returns from Detroit to Gates

Although more residents can return home, Marion County Sheriff’s Office says not all core services will be restored just yet.

As of 9 a.m. Friday, the updated evacuations are as follows:

Level 3 – “Go”
Breitenbush
Crooked Finger Rd south of the cattle guard

Level 2 – “Be Set”
Detroit
Idanha
OR 22E between milepost 33 to 56.2, west of Cooper’s Ridge Road

Level 1 – “Ready”
Mill City
Gates
Lyons
Mehama

Beachie Creek and Lionshead fires

The two wildfires still blazing in Marion County are the state’s two largest infernos. The Beachie Creek Fire has grown to 192,838 acres and is 52% contained, while the Lionshead Fire is a whopping 204,250 acres and is 28% contained.

Crews are continuing to battle the fires while monitoring weather conditions. Although rain can be helpful dousing the flames, it can further complicate the efforts with the threat of mudslides and other rain-related hazards.

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