SALEM, Ore. (KOIN) — Marion County Commissioner Kevin Cameron went to work helping people displaced by wildfires the day after he fled his home in Detroit.
Cameron was forced to evacuate his home in the early morning hours of Sept. 8. He told KOIN 6 News it was like passing through a “fireball” as smoke and flames from the Beachie Creek Fire swallowed Detroit.
He later had a chance to return and survey the destruction when officials needed to escort the Army Corps of Engineers to Detroit Lake.
“The first thing I saw was the gas station on the north side was gone, the motel was gone,” said Cameron. “We turned into town — on the right Cedars [Restaurant & Lounge] sign was there, Cedars was all gone.”
On his street, Cameron saw nine homes still standing — including his own.
“Obvioulsy I am one of the lucky ones — a little bit of survivor’s guilt there,” he said. “But I am not able to go back to that home; I’m staying with my daughter in the Salem-Keizer area.”
Officials estimate that of the 250 structures in Detroit, only 20-25 remain standing. Firefighters were still working to extinguish and contain spot fires and protect the remaining structures on Tuesday.
With much of Detroit reduced to rubble, Cameron has focused his energy on helping the community and his neighbors. He’s worked to coordinate shelter for evacuees at the Oregon State Fairgrounds.
“It’s about the people who lost everything,” he said. “I have a family, I have resources I can stay with but there are some people who lost it all and they are my neighbors and those are the people I need to stay strong for. It’s an emotional time.”
Cameron said commissioners are working with local, state and federal officials to put together plans to prepare for how they can rebuild and clean up. Officials from Marion and Linn counties are expected to hold a joint meeting Thursday.