STAYTON, Ore. (KOIN) — With some neighborhoods in Marion and Linn counties reducing to Level 2 evacuations, people are beginning to return to their properties to survey what rampant wildfires have left them.

On the same day, leaders from both those counties began the conversations on what the next steps are and how quickly they can start rebuilding.

Food donations for evacuees of the Beachie Creek Fire organized at a donation center in Stayton. September 18, 2020 (KOIN)

“We are having people look at their homes and figure out what it means to go back there and we’re starting to plan on rebuilding so, that’s the focus right now. We want to keep people safe and we want to rebuild, we want to rebuild as soon as possible.” said Colm Willis, the chair of the Marion County Commissioners.

Several hundred homes, if not more, were lost in the County. Highway 22 remains closed at Mill City, covered in thousands of downed trees, but roads through Linn county allow for people to work back to their homes. For many, they were evacuated in the middle of the night because of how fast the fire spread.

“They left with nothing and they have nothing.  So it’s really what, in this phase, what are the things that they need.” said Ed Diehl.

Diehl has helped organize a community donation center at the Knights of Columbus Anthony Hall in Stayton. There, clothes, food, toys, games, and information on where to get help can be found for people who have survived the fires.

People living in Santiam Canyon have organized a local relief fund as well, designed to help immediately and as rebuilding takes place.

“That’s what this community is about. They are fiercely independent and fiercely able to support themselves. But the reason they are able to be that wqy is because they are connected and know their neighbors and friends are here to help.” said Deana Freres, who helped organize the fund.

A donation center in Stayton for people displaced by the Beachie Creek Fire. September 18, 2020 (KOIN)

The fund started after Freres neighbors lost their home. Friends were quick to donate however, they wanted that money to go to people who were more in need.

Initially, Freres says the money will help with people’s hotel and travel costs. She hopes at some point it will help people rebuild what was lost.

“It’s going to be a long haul, it’s going to be hard work, but I think the end result will be an example to everybody on how well community works.” she said.

Willis, though is not deterred by the work. He hopes to work with Governor Kate Brown’s office on how to expedite the approval process for people’s rebuilding.
“We roll up our sleeves, we get to work, it’s not a community that waits around. This is not a community that’s looking for handouts, this is a community tyhat works. I’m confident and I’ve seen this community pull together like I’ve never seen before.

To donate to the Santiam Canyon Relief Fund, you can go on Facebook or go online.