Evacuation levels lowered Friday as deputies support re-entry into areas formerly under Level 3 evacuation orders.

OUTLOOK PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Marie and Dan Anderson live in Bridal Veil evacuated from their residence September 5 and stayed at the couples karate studio in Gresham before being connected with a place to stay. The couple was finally able to return home Friday.As the Eagle Creek Fire picked up steam, Dan and Marie Anderson packed away their valuables and prepared to flee their home in Bridal Veil.

It was around 1 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 5, when they left, spurred by the spreading flames and Level 3 evacuation orders. Their car was full of the most important things — photos, irreplaceable keepsakes, vinyl records and, most crucially, their cats and dogs. As they drove away, the couple never expected to see their home again.

"When we left, we knew the house was going to be gone," Dan said. "But the next day we got a text from a friend who said the fire had split around the property. It was such a relief."

Now more relief is on the way for the Andersons, as they and other Gorge residents can finally return to their homes.

As of noon Friday, Sept. 15, the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office (MCSO0 is downgrading all Level 3 evacuation orders to Level 2, which means residents can go home.

OUTLOOK PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Warrendale resident Billie Overcash is reunited with one of her two cats Friday at Corbett Community Church, where Eagle Creek Fire evacuees were accounted for and allowed to return home. "We are ecstatic to see people return to their homes," said Mike Pulllen, MCSO chief deputy. "We wanted to ensure everything was safe, and we are confident we won't have to move them back out again."

All of the residents going home first stopped in at a re-entry center, established in the Corbett Community Church, 34309 N.E. Mershon Road. This was to make sure only residents were going back into the area, as officers wanted to keep away others who would slow down the process.

"Homeowners get to go back first," Pullen said.

Warrendale residents Wayne and Billie Overcash evacuated Monday night, Sept. 4. They have been staying with their kids in Gresham, and are ready to get back with their two cats.

OUTLOOK PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - One of two cats belonging to Wayne and Billie Overcash looks less than enthused at being paraded before the news media Friday at Corbett Community Church, where fire evacuees were processed by sheriffs deputies before being allowed to return to homes in areas formerly under a Level 3 evacuation order."The firefighters did a good job," Wayne said. "We were confident they would protect our home."

The couple heard that at least three homes were burned in their neighborhood, but Wayne's friends in the fire department told him theirs had been spared.

"It was hard to watch the Gorge burn, but it is a good ending because we get to go back to our house," Billie said.

The Andersons spent the first few days of being displaced at Dan's business in downtown Gresham, Dan Anderson Karate School. Later the Gresham Area Chamber of Commerce was able to connect them with a place to stay as they kept an eye on fire updates. At its worst, they learned, the fire raged only 150 feet from their home.

OUTLOOK PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Officials lifted all Level 3 evacuation notices connected with the Eagle Creek Fire on Friday, including for Corbett, Bridal Veil, Warrendale, Bonneville, Cascade Locks and other locales."Being displaced for over a week is an odd feeling," Dan said. "We are very excited to be going home, and are so thankful for the efforts of the firefighters."

While they are nervous to see what things will look and smell like, they are excited to be returning, even though some cleaning may be needed.

"It will be nice to get home," Marie said.

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