David Davis and Zach Urness
Salem Statesman Journal
Published 9:19 AM EDT Sep 8, 2020
UPDATE at 5:15 a.m.
Multiple wildfires have broken out along Highway 22 in the Santiam Canyon, bringing a level 3 evacuation for everyone from Lyons-Mehama through Idanha, including Mill City and Detroit, emergency officials said.
The sheriff’s office expanded the evacuation order for areas west of Mehama to Cascade Highway SE and south of Highway 214 at 4:30 a.m.
Just before 5 a.m., the cities of Stayton and Sublimity announced a level 2 – GET SET – evacuation notice saying that residents should be prepared to evacuate and be ready to take all pets, medications and essential items with them.
Officials report deputies have encountered fire as far west as Jennie Road SE in Mehama. Active flames and burning has been reported by evacuees along both sides of the North Santiam River and Highway 22 between Mill City and North Santiam State Recreation Site.
UPDATE: Numerous wildfires bring ‘Go Now’ orders for Santiam Canyon, McKenzie River areas
“Conditions in the Santiam Canyon east of Mehama have become extremely dangerous and all residents who have not yet evacuated need to do so immediately,” said Marion County Sheriff Joe Kast in a statement early Tuesday morning.
Highway 22 east of Stayton out through the Santiam Canyon to the junction with Highway 20 has been closed to allow for residents to evacuate the area.
Marion County Sheriff’s office issued a level 3 – ‘Go now’ – evacuation order covers communities along the highway from Mehama east to Detroit and Idanha including the towns of Mehama, Mill City, Gates, Detroit, Idanha and North Fork corridor as well as the rural area between Cascade Highway SE and Mehama.
An evacuation staging area has been established at the Oregon State Fairgrounds in Salem by Marion County Emergency Management and the American Red Cross.
“There are multiple areas where fire is located on the north and south side of Highway 22 in the Santiam River Canyon,” Forest Service spokeswoman Jennifer O’Leary said. “Active fire spread is still occurring. I’m hearing reports of multiple locations ranging from small to large.”
Officials say residents should leave the area immediately and seek shelter outside of the impacted area.
All evacuating residents were asked to travel west on Highway 22 toward Stayton after the highway became blocked at milepost 59.
Here is Marion County Sheriff Joe Kast’s complete statement:
“We care deeply about the safety of all of our community members. The extreme fire activity in the area poses an imminent danger to anyone who chooses to remain in the evacuated area. Our deputies are committed to helping keep our community safe; however, conditions have become too dangerous for them to continue with evacuation efforts at this time. I encourage anyone still in the Santiam Canyon to leave immediately following the deputies out of the area. I cannot say when the conditions will allow deputies and other emergency responders to return to the area to render assistance. Please leave now.”
An information line has been established by Marion County Emergency Management at 503-391-7294.
Power outages impacting over 2,300 Pacific Power customers in the Santiam Canyon were reported as of 3:15 a.m.
Escape from Mill City on highway surrounded by flames
Mike Ferris, Mill City resident, said he was able to evacuate his home around 2 a.m. By the time he reached the edge of town, he said he could see active flames on the side of Highway 22.
“As soon as we got to the edge of town we could see houses and trees burning on both sides of the road,” Ferris said. “Just past Fishermen’s Bend, right where the river comes up to the highway, we could see houses on fire on the Linn County side of the North Santiam.”
Ferris said the flames slowed down once he passed North Santiam State Recreation Site.
“It would be hard to say what area was worst, but I was seeing fire right on the edge of Mill City all the way down to North Santiam (State Recreation Site),” he said.
Sam Drevo, who owns eNRG Kayaking in Mill City and was in Gates, said the mountains around town became engulfed in flames.
“I could see a huge plume of bright orange over by Gates School which was the firefighter camp,” he said. “The smoke, wind and fire came in so quick.”
More information will be added when available.