‘Beauty from ashes’: Wildfire victims look to future on Thanksgiving


Local restaurants and community members donated Thanksgiving dinners to survivors and volunteers

GATES, Ore. (KOIN) — Hundreds of people were left homeless when wildfires ripped through the Santiam Canyon in September. But the community came together in one hard-hit town to make sure those victims could enjoy a Thanksgiving dinner.

Rubble and charred foundations aren’t difficult to miss in the town of Gates. All that remains of the town’s elementary school is twisted metal.

Volunteers wanted to not only provide Thanksgiving meals for wildfire survivors in Gates, but also the encouragement to spark a larger recovery effort.

“A lot of them still don’t have places to live. People are living in trailers, we have homeless camps around here, because of the fires,” said organizer Debbie Corning.

Another organizer, Melody Munger, remembers the exact time she realized she and her family needed to evacuate their home.

“We just went to bed. At 1:59 in the morning, somehow a text got through to evacuate to Gates.”

Munger’s son and his family, who lived next door, left with her.

“We found out three days later that our homes had all burned within 15 minutes,” she said.

Munger and her sisters helped organize the Thanksgiving dinner for wildfire victims and the volunteers who will continue helping those who lost their homes in the weeks ahead. The food was donated by local restaurants and community members. She said there are more than 160 volunteers set to begin starting Friday.

Despite the great loss, people like Munger say they have much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.

“We’ve tasted the kindness of strangers and families coming together. Definitely beauty from ashes,” Munger said.

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