Marion County evacuations lifted; residents see what’s left


Evacuation levels in place since September 7

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — All the evacuation levels put into place after the wildfires ripped through Marion County in early September were lifted Wednesday morning, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office said.

Some roads may remain closed for inspection and repairs, and the speed limit has been reduced between Gates and Pamelia Creek Road, authorities said.

However, Highway 22 reopened to traffic in the Santiam Canyon at 7 p.m. Tuesday. Sections of the roadway have been closed since Sept. 7 — the day easterly winds roared through the area, whipping the Beachie Creek and Lionshead fires into raging infernos.

Gary Snider was able to go back and see what was left of his property when evacuations levels from the wildfires in Marion County were lifted, October 14, 2020 (KOIN)

Gary Snider, who lost his home in the fire, came back on Wednesday for a second time to look at his property.

“We are staying with our friends in Mill City right now,” he said. “We bought a fifth wheel RV and we are living in his cow pasture where my Honda was parked.”

He pointed to his burned vehicle and noted, “It’s going to cost a small fortune to get this out of here. How are you going to move a truck when it’s laying on the frame and the engine is on the ground?”

There were things he couldn’t replace, especially artifacts and antique guns. “I’m an Old West collector and Indian artifacts collector,” Snider said.

He admitted the loss is devastating.

“I mean, we’ve had fires on this hill several times in the past and they always manage to get a chopper with buckets of water and put it out before it hit Detroit. But this one didn’t happen.”

A map showing the closures in the Willamette National Forest, October 14, 2020 (Marion County Sheriff’s Office)

But he’s not giving up.

“We are going to do something. First we are going to clean up the mess and drop these trees because once they are burned you don’t know what,” he told KOIN 6 News. “They could stand there for years or fall in months.”

The Oregon Department of Transportation estimates over 30,000 “hazard trees” have been removed along a 40-mile stretch of Highway 22. Hazard trees are dead, dying or leaning trees damaged by the wildfires that could fall onto the highway.

But officials urge caution for anyone traveling through the area and to allow extra time to pass through.

If you do drive through the area, there are limited services in Santiam Canyon. Travelers are encouraged to pack extra food and water and fill up on gas before going in.

Certain areas of the Willamette National Forest remain closed and all recreation sites inside the closed area remain closed as well.

A map of the Lionshead Fire in Marion County. The black line indicates the contained area, October 14, 2020 (Marion County Sheriff’s Office)

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