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Marion County declares state of emergency after wildfires spur evacuations throughout Santiam Canyon with more expected

PMG PHOTO: JUSTIN MUCH - Lee Reagan of Idanha at the Oregon State Fairgrounds evacuation center. He and his wife, Trish, gathered their two dogs and any belongings they could when they were evacuated from a friend's home in Mill City at around 1 a.m. Tuesday.Lee Reagan of Idanha was pretty wiped out after fishing on the North Santiam River on his birthday Monday.

Reagan fished until the smoke billowed in and made the scene uncomfortable. He had been staying in Mill City, at a friend's home where he had been doing some carpentry work. Wiped out from the day, he fell into a deep sleep until about 1 a.m. when a sheriff's deputy knocked on the window and told him he needed to evacuate.

Lee and his wife, Trish, gathered their two dogs and whatever other valuables they could get their hands on and drove down the mountain, seeing numerous fires along the way.

"We saw three, maybe four fires; everything seemed to be on fire around Mill City, Fisherman's Bend, all the parks, Mehama, Lyons — everything was on fire," Reagan said at his makeshift camp at the Oregon State Fairgrounds evacuation center. "We had to be some of the last people to come off the mountain."

Marion County declared a state of emergency due to rapidly spreading wildfires throughout much of the east county region.

Lyons, Mehama, Mill City, Gates, Detroit and Idanha are all evacuated, and areas on Highway 214 north of Silver Falls State Park to Scotts Mills.

Stayton, Sublimity, Aumsville, Silverton and Highway 213 west of Mount Angel to Drakes Crossing are on Level 2 (be set) evacuation alert. County officials said fires are expected to continue with more evacuations anticipated.

An evacuation staging area has been established at the Oregon State Fairgrounds in Salem.PMG PHOTO: JUSTIN MUCH - Volunteers roll through the Oregon State Fairgrounds evacuation center handing out milk to families who were displaced by wildfires in Santiam Canyon.

Marion County Board of Commissioners announced that the emergency declaration allows the county to seek resources from the state government and implements the county's Emergency Operations Plan. It provides for emergency purchasing procedures and more flexibility for personnel.

A statement from the commission said: "The county will take all necessary steps to coordinate response and recovery from this emergency."

Board Chair Colm Willis said: "Our sheriff's deputies and police and fire agencies were heroic and aided hundreds of people last night in the midst of fire. We will continue to work around the clock to protect our communities. My thoughts and prayers are with everyone who has lost homes or loved ones in this horrible fire."

Gov. Kate Brown approved an emergency conflagration declaration for the Beachie Creek, Lionshead and Holiday Farm Fire. The Beachie Creek and Lionshead Fires were active overnight in the Santiam Canyon. Holiday Farm Fire is active near McKenzie Bridge.

PMG PHOTO: JUSTIN MUCH - Displaced Santiam Canyon residents pour into the Oregon State Fairgrounds evacuation center with pets and whatever belongings they could take with them.

"Almost every year since becoming governor, I've witnessed historic wildfire seasons," Brown said. "This past weekend, we experienced significant wind that is fueling wildfires with devastating consequences across Oregon, on top of a dire pandemic.

"For people and families in the evacuation areas, please listen to local calls to evacuate as needed — these lifesaving measures can protect the lives of you and your loved ones, as well as our firefighters.

"In addition, I am asking all Oregonians to remain vigilant with any activity that could spark a wildfire during this historic wind event. We all need to do our part to help the many firefighters battling multiple fires across Oregon," Brown added.

Meanwhile, there appeared to be two evacuation sites populating at the fairgrounds: one at the west end, near the oak grove, and another near the south end from Lana Avenue and Silverton Road. Vehicles rolled in from 17th Street at the west-end center as a group of volunteers drove through in a pickup truck early Tuesday afternoon, handing out milk to displaced families, like the Reagans.

Lee Reagan thanked them, said he also is looking forward to a beer.

Reagan is thankful he and his family and friends were able to get out of Mill City, and he expects that their home and belongings in Idanha are destroyed by fire. He's seen it before.

"You know, I've been through four (significant) fires in my life: two while living in Alaska, one in Arizona and now this one at Mill City," Lee Reagan said. "So it's not true that bad luck only comes in threes."

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- Emergency evacuation flared up faster than expected

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