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Estacada family recounts 'nightmare-like' flight from smoke and flames in search of shelter

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - Several families are staying in the Mt. Hood Community College parking lot after being forced from their homes by wildfires. A family who has spent the week bouncing around the region in flight from the Clackamas County wildfires finally believe they have found long-term refuge in Gresham.

Mary Boyle was supposed to be working the evening when Estacada was evacuated due to the ever-growing Riverside Fire.

She had gone into the Estacada Dollar General around 4 p.m. Friday, Sept. 11, for her shift while keeping a close eye on evacuation updates. An hour later her boss sent her home with a simple order — get your family to safety.

For Boyle that wasn't the easiest direction. Sixteen people call her property in Estacada home, and everyone had sentimental items they wanted to bring with them. All the while thick, black smoke was darkening the sky.

But they were able to get everything together and flee the home that has been in the family for 65 years. It was built by her grandfather, and losing it would be unimaginable. But Boyle said the most important things was getting her loved ones to safety.

"Right now our house is still standing — though we could see the fire half a mile behind our property," Boyle said. "It was very scary."

Their many four-legged friends also got to safety. The family owns dogs, cats, goats and horses, all of which made it out. The smaller animals were simple — but for the horses Boyle turned to assistance on social media. She connected to a group of volunteers with horse trailers, and they were able to transport them safely to the Oregon State Fairgrounds.

The first night — Tuesday — they stayed with family in Barton, but the following morning realized it wasn't far enough from the fires. By Wednesday afternoon they had packed up again, making their way to the Damascus Safeway parking lot for respite and to restock on supplies.

But Boyle still felt uncomfortable about the ever-encroaching fire and evacuation orders. So the family made one last move north, settling in the Mt. Hood Community College parking lot.

"This has been like a horrible nightmare we can't wake up from," Boyle said.

For now the family has found a quiet place to stay and rest. There is a quiet sense of hope in the MHCC parking lot, where several other refugee families are also camped out. Children are laughing and playing catch with dogs, and supplies are being shared to ensure everyone has what they need.

"This finally feels far enough away," Boyle said. "It might be smoky, but it's safe."

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