Oregon firefighters get an assist from mother nature
Humidity is up, winds from the east are down, hope and hard work has saved some communities, while others lay devastated by this week's wildfires.
Crews continue to battle the blazes on Saturday but offshore weather patterns and the promise of rain in the coming week could mean a firefighting shift from defense to offense.
And then to the recovery of bodies.
Marion County remains in a state of emergency as wildfires devastate the area. The Beachie Creek Fire has burned more than 186,000 acres and killed at least four people.
The remains of 13-year-old Wyatt Tofte and his 71-year-old grandmother Peggy Mosso have been positively identified, the Marion County Sheriff's Office said Friday. Deputies said they found their remains inside of a vehicle in the 26000 block of North Fork Road in the Santiam Canyon.
Deputies said two other people who have not been publicly named were found dead by search and rescue teams Thursday afternoon.
Ten people were still missing while 13 others who were reported missing had been found safe by Friday evening.
Gov. Kate Brown on Friday said dozens of people — primarily in Jackson, Lane and Marion counties — are reported missing. But fire operations have been focused on stopping the spread of flames.
The Beachie Creek Fire, which was momentarily switched to be called the Santiam Fire, has completely decimated much of the Santiam Canyon. Officials reported the inferno has jumped to 186,856 acres as of Friday morning.
The offshore winds should begin pushing the choking, amber smoke out of the Willamette Valley starting Sunday or Monday.
Firefighters have received an outpouring of support from the community, to the point where many agencies have assured the public that their work crews have no shortage of supplies, food and water.
But for families of firefighters, it's an especially difficult time.
"The fear of losing your home is hard, but watching your husband walk away from safety and into danger to protect the community he loves is a feeling that's impossible to describe," said Bethany West, whose husband, Chris, is volunteering in Colton to fight the wildfires. "As a wife, I want to be selfish and ask him to stay for his family, but I know it's in his soul to stand up and protect the community we love.
"They are family to us. The hardest part is knowing he would give his life for them."
The Archie Creek Fire, burning in Douglas County, was measured at 115,000 acres Friday evening and also had no containment estimate.
The Holiday Farm Fire in Lane County has reached a size of 156,000 acres. It's responsible for damage to communities near the McKenzie River, including Blue River and Vida. Firefighters have focused on protecting structures, and the fire was considered 0% contained.
The Almeda Drive Fire, which burned through the southern Oregon communities of Phoenix and Talent earlier this week and forced the evacuation of homes in Medford, is listed at 5,700 acres and 20% contained.
The Echo Mountain Fire Complex is far smaller than Oregon's largest blazes, but its location near populated areas in Lincoln County had resulted in large numbers of evacuations. The fire is 2,400 acres in size, burning just inland from Lincoln City around the town of Otis.
Reporters Brittany Allen, Anna Del Savio, Max Egener, Cindy Fama, Dana Haynes, Emily Lindstrand, Patrick Malee, Mark Miller, Raymond Rendleman, Sam Stites, Courtney Vaughn, Kristen Wohlers and Peter Wong have contributed to this week's wildfire stories. Photographers Alvaro Fontan, Jonathan House and Jaime Valdez have shot images. KOIN 6 News and Oregon Public Broadcasting contributed to this article. Both are news partners of Pamplin Media Group.
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