‘Mill City was on fire’: Marion County emergency remains


State of Emergency declared Tuesday

SALEM, Ore. (KOIN) — Marion County remains in a State of Emergency as wildfires continue to roar throughout the county.

Marion County Level 3 evacuations are in place for Lyons, Mehama, Mill City, Gates, Detroit, Idanha, Hwy 214 north of Silver Falls State Park to Scotts Mill.

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Sgt. Jeremy Landers with the Marion County Sheriff’s Office told KOIN 6 News they have not been able to confirm any reports of fatalities or how many structures were destroyed because the raging fires make some areas inaccessible.

He said they’re aware some people chose not to leave. They really want people to pay close attention to the evacuation levels and not to go into areas that have already been evacuated.

‘I really want to know what’s going on’

Susan LaFontaine endured the wind she said felt like it was going to blow her motor home over. She endured smoke but what she could not endure was a sense that a wind-driven inferno was sweeping down the Santiam River Valley in her direction.

“The west end of Mill City was on fire,” she said.

Early Tuesday morning she took off and came to the Oregon State Fairgrounds in Salem with some belongings and her cat, not knowing a thing about the well being of the place in Gates she left behind.

Susan LaFontaine evacuated to the Oregon State Fairgrounds as wildfires roared through Marion County, September 9,2020 (KOIN)

“That’s the worst part. I really want to know what’s going on up there,” she told KOIN 6 News. “I want to know the fire camp people are safe, I want to know that everybody got out and there’s just nowhere to find out.”

Marion County Commissioners met with reporters briefly in Salem Wednesday morning. They are not sure what they’ll find when they return to the Mill City, Gates and Detroit area.

One thing Commissioner Kevin Cameron does know is if some entire towns are burned to the ground, the county stands ready to help them rebuild.

“Those people have been wiped off the map so many times,” Cameron said. “You go back to the late ’80s and the spotted owl, you go back to the draining of the lake for recreation to preserve other values, so we’re standing strong with those people.”

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