'I lost everything': Beachie Creek Fire scatters paths of destruction

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MARION COUNTY, OR (KPTV) - As fire crews work to get a handle on the Beachie Creek Fire, more incredible stories of survival are emerging as we get a closer look at the devastation left behind in Marion County.

Anthony Bucher with the Oregon State Fire Marshal saw the chaos firsthand as people rushed to get away with billowing fires burning around them.

“[We saw] vehicles that had half-melted, half-burned, vehicles that were full of people,” Bucher said. “People didn’t have time to grab their stuff so it was the clothes they had on their back to get out.”

Others barely made it out. 

“I personally had an interaction with a couple that had barely had time to get out of bed and out of their front door and jump in the river, where they spent many hours escaping the flames and the smoke,” Bucher said.

Fire crews were able to rescue the couple and countless others – one of the biggest nightmares: falling trees that blocked roads trapping people from escaping. 

“We tried to get people out, stopped our rigs, conversed that we had them all,  and a tree fell over and crushed the back of my compadre's truck and smashed the whole back of it to the ground,” fire incident commander John Spencer said. “And we heard it crack, moved out of the way, just in time to see it all come down where we were standing.”

Many of those lucky to escape with their lives will return to nothing. There’s no good count on the numbers of homes lost but in the Santiam Canyon, the devastation is everywhere.

“I lost everything except what’s in that bag – everything,” said a camp host who spends his summers working and living at Fishermen’s Bend Recreational Area outside Mill City.

“Our main job is to get other campers out of the park before we leave the park,” he said.

Now the fight to put out the flames continue, as does the search to find those still missing.

“There’s a lot of damage still that makes it very treacherous them to get in and safely work recovery missions,” said Sgt. Jeremy Landers with the Marion County Sheriff’s Office.

Four people have been confirmed dead in the fire and five people are still missing.

Copyright 2020 KPTV-KPDX Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.

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