Out of the ashes: Gates farmer loses home, finds ‘miracle’

Wildfires

Gates remains under a Level 3 evacuation order Wednesday night

MARION COUNTY, Ore. (KOIN) — A farmer who lives in Gates returned home after the Beachie Creek Fire to find his house, the family farm, and nearly his entire town destroyed. One glimmer of hope remained, though.

Gates remains under a Level 3 evacuation order Wednesday night, but current conditions are nothing compared to the inferno 36-year-old Anthony Jacobson faced on Labor Day.

“It was as dark as midnight by 8 p.m.,” Jacobson said. But a few minutes later he saw a splotch of orange that seemed to quiver like a distant warning in the darkness.

Soon, the small fire erupted and moved like molten lava, a creeping horror heading down the hillside toward his home.

“Between the time you see this little tiny fire on a hillside, to when it was burning everything around us, you’re talking minutes, not talking hours,” Jacobson said.

The winds howled between 50 and 60 miles per hour.

“We watched fire tornadoes ripping trees out of the ground it was just probably the most horrific sight I’ve ever seen and been so close to,” he recounted.

The gusts swept across treetops and carried embers, floating in the sky ready to ignite wherever they landed.

“To literally feel it raining down on you … my only though was, ‘It’s over,’” Jacobson said.

He got his wife and in-laws to safety and grabbed a the family pets; a dog and three cats. But they couldn’t find a yet-unnamed rescue kitten they had just adopted. Jacobson then went back to help his neighbors, finding the nearby home of an old friend — who is away serving in the Marine Corps — was about to burn.

He tried, but was unable to save his buddy’s car.

“The entire park was completely engulfed in flames except for his home and vehicles,” Jacobson said. “The propane tanks were exploding I unfortunately couldn’t save the car.”

It took four days until he could return to the family property, a total loss except for a trailer that somehow went untouched by flames.

“Sure enough we hear these tiny little ‘meows’ coming from underneath the trailer, and here’s this kitty,” Jacobson said.

Gates resident Anthony Jacobson found his kitten alive when he returned to the charred ruins of his home, September 2020. (Courtesy of Anthony Jacobson)

The kitten they thought they’d lost had been found.

“It’s a miracle, you know, it’s been hard,” Jacobson said. “To get a little glimmer of hope and happiness from the tragic situation, was really good to see.”

It is one good memory of an unimaginable ordeal that stole everything from the family farm to the family photos.

“It’s hard to think of the memories and the things you cannot replace that are gone, but we have our memories, and we’ll hold on as best we can,” he said.

Now, all of his efforts will go to rebuilding the family farm, no matter how long it takes.

“We will do everything we can to put it back together,” he said.

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