Gates home spared from flames, hit by looters after family evacuates

Firefighter from Detroit comes home to find house and new boat destroyed: 'It's horrible'
Firefighter from Detroit comes home to find house and new boat destroyed: 'It's horrible'(KPTV Image)
Updated: Sep. 22, 2020 at 8:38 PM PDT
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GATES, OR (KPTV) - Some families are able to return home after wildfires ripped through towns like Gates, Oregon. Some neighborhoods are still in tact, but others were completely leveled by flames. The Baird family home is one of the last ones standing in the Dogwood neighborhood.

“Complete destruction right there and then right here it melted the siding a little bit,” Collin Baird said.

Baird’s family’s home is still there, but his neighbors homes are nothing but rubble and ash. The flames came within inches of the family’s home.

“The fire came all the way out in our yard and it burnt this stump that’s less than two feet form our back door,” Tonya Baird, Collin’s wife, said.

The couple showed FOX 12 how everything around their home burned, but their home was spared by the Beachie Creek Fire.

“All the houses on this side burnt, Colleen’s house burnt, and there’s three in this little area here,” Collin said.

The two said they can’t help but wonder why they have a place to go back to while their friends and neighbors have nothing left.

“There’s no other explanation other than a miracle,” Tonya said.

Initially, the family thought their home was gone.

“We were just crushed,” Collin said. “We didn’t have much before all this. I’ve been homeless before, I didn’t want to see my kids there, and that killed me.”

The two call it a miracle that most of the damage was limited to the melted siding on one end of their home.

Later in the week, the mayor of Gates, John McCormick, came through to check on homes in their neighborhood. The Baird’s door had been kicked in, their car door was open, and a pile of their stuff was in the front yard. Collin said that was when they called the Marion County Sheriff’s Office.

“They went through and went and looked around and said, ‘yup, you guys have been looted,’” Collin said.

The looters turned their home upside down and filled up their daughter’s toy boxes.

“It wasn’t just our electronics, it wasn’t just CD players and game systems, it was our family photos and like, my dad’s memorial picture and our trip to the zoo,” Tonya said.

Deputies moved the boxes back into the Baird’s home, but a couple hundred dollars of cash is still missing.

“Invasive to say the least because after what had gone on here,” Collin said. “What kind of person does it take to break in on somebody?”

The two kept saying that they would have helped whomever took it if they had just asked.

“Sad that somebody broke in, but we were very blessed and grateful for what we had left,” Tonya said.

The Bairds still don’t know why their home was spared from the flames, but they’ve promised to do everything in their power to help rebuild the neighborhood they love so much.

“I just want to make it count,” Collin said.

The family did file a report with the Marion County Sheriff’s Office.