‘Like survivors’: Mill City man stays despite Level 3 order


Larry Sorenson said the 'community is really coming together'

MILL CITY, Ore. (KOIN) — When a wall of flames came within yards of his Mill City property on September 8, Lonnie Sorenson evacuated. Propane tanks were exploding on both sides of his home, he said.

But the next day he used back roads to go back and he hasn’t left except to get groceries for his family.

Neighbors, he said, have texted him and he’s helped them by letting out animals, checking to see if homes are intact and whatever else his evacuated neighbors need.

Larry, who worked as a campground host in Mill City, found he lost everything when he got to return to his home after the Beachie Creek Fire, September 15, 2020 (KOIN)

“I have a lot of friends who have lost everything they own. The key is this community is coming together real well,” Sorenson told KOIN 6 News. “I used to walk out on my yard and people would drive by and now I walk out and every single person waves because we’re like survivors of a war or something.”

No one who spoke with KOIN 6 News has experienced any issues with looting. The National Guard and local authorities are patrolling the area and most residents say they really appreciate that.

Many local residents have come up with creative ways to help each other. Sorenson has offered his dump truck to help anyone haul out burned debris — even though it’s a bit early for that.

Not everyone in Mill City has been as fortunate as Sorenson.

Larry, who asked not to use his last name, works as a camp host at a campground in Mill City. The cabin he’s called home for 14 years is gone. And like many of his neighbors, he barely had time to escape.

“I lost everything,” he said. “And I don’t have insurance.”

“People didn’t have time to get it, people only had the clothes on their backs,” said Anthony Bucher with the Oregon State Fire Marshal’s Office. “It moved so fast people were fortunate to get out of their homes.”

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