GATES, Ore. (KOIN) — Billy and Brooke Edge knew what returning home was going to look like. They had evacuated their home as flames were coming on the hills behind their property and on the night they had gotten out, their 16-year-old son snuck past the evacuation barriers to snap a picture of the family home engulfed in flames.
That didn’t make it easier as they perused the home’s skeleton, looking for anything that might have been spared.
“It’s quite a shock when you pull up and see it. We had a lot of stuff.” Billy said.
They stopped by their house on their lunch break, their first opportunity to take a look after Level 2 “Get Set” evacuation orders allowed them back to the area. Brooke manages the Mill Street Market and Billy is the store’s butcher.
“I thought we’d find some stuff not scorched. But I can’t find jewelry. I figured gold has to be pretty hot to melt down.” Brooke said.
Billy found the remnants of a coin collection; Brooke found a mug and pulled a still-living plant from the pond that was in front of their entryway. Besides that, shells of appliances and the home’s chimney were the few things still recognizable in the ashes.
The couple has been holed up in a hotel in Salem, they’re satisfied with their accommodations given the circumstances. The night they evacuated Billy was watching the glow of the fire over the hills. One of his five sons called to check up on him that night. Billy told him not to worry as he couldn’t sleep much anyway.
“Then suddenly, the last time I checked, I could see the glow all the way around us. Just really bright, you could almost see the yellow in the flame,” he recalled.
Several neighborhoods in Gates look similar to the Edge’s. In some, entire swaths of homes were scorched and in others, next to one destroyed home is another that wasn’t touched.
“We’re just all still in shock, what do we do next?” Peggy Barnick, who lived on the east side of the town.
Barnick’s son is a firefighter in California so she wasted no time getting out when the first evacuation order was announced.
“I put on my favorite necklace, my favorite ring and everything else is in [the home].”
She thought it best to check out her home by herself for the first time. She has been staying with friends in Mill City the last few days, and a hotel in Salem before that.
It was emotional for her to see what was left.
“Oh, I started crying but, joyful. I have my little ceramic in the front, she’s still standing and if she can get through this so can I.” she said.
Peggy rented her place and as of right now, she’s moving to Arizona where her granddaughter will be getting married in October.
The Edges, on the other hand, will be rebuilding. Insurance will cover much of what they lost, but still, there will be a lot of money coming out of their own pocket, like for the trailer they plan on living in until they can start rebuilding. With a shortage of contractors relative to the amount of construction that’s needed, they’ve been told it could be a while.
“They’re telling us it could be eight months, a year, or longer.” Billy said.
One of their sons, who also lives in Gates, didn’t have insurance for his home. They’ve started a GoFundMe page for him to try to get his recovery started.
The next step for Billy and Brooke right now is getting electrical hookups to their property working again and they’ll tackle the rest after that.
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