Sights from the fires

Views+of+the+Lionshead+fire%2C+started+by+lightning%2C+which+covers+all+of+the+Mt.+Jefferson+wilderness+area+and+Camp+Sherman.+Cardinal+Times+staff+member+Hadley+Steele+camped+near+the+fire+and+was+forced+to+evacuate.

Hadley Steele

Views of the Lionshead fire, started by lightning, which covers all of the Mt. Jefferson wilderness area and Camp Sherman. Cardinal Times staff member Hadley Steele camped near the fire and was forced to evacuate.

Our Managing Digital Editor, Hadley Steele, was forced to evacuate from Central Oregon earlier this week due to wildfires. She shared her experience below.

 

The Lionshead fire was started by lightning and covers all of the Mt. Jefferson wilderness, Camp Sherman, and over to Detroit lake where it meets the Santiam Fire. In the area, people are being evacuated from their homes and from the trails it has engulfed.

Over Labor Day weekend, my friends and I did what many Portlanders do– we drove south to go backpacking in the Jefferson Wilderness. It was supposed to be a very casual, beginning-of-school kind of trip with low mileage and lots of chill time. When we pulled into the parking lot, we realized that it wouldn’t go as we planned. 

It’s hard to even imagine what it would be like to have our homes at risk to burn.”

— Hadley Steele

The original cloud of smoke was tiny. We called the ranger station and made sure that it was still safe. They replied saying that it was most definitely safe and that they had rangers stationed to help if it grew. We hiked into a campsite with very little worry. 

The next day we continued our hike to the next lake where we got the first view of what the cloud had turned into overnight. It was much larger, slightly concerning, and a mix of red and purple in color. It was gorgeous. We all stopped and watched it for a while because of the unique shapes and colors it kept changing into. A ranger came up to us while we were fixated on the cloud and reassured us that it is safe, and we may be asked to leave later in the day if the winds change, but that they never change.
They changed. After we had set up camp and gone for a swim, we started to eat our dinner. A ranger came up to us while eating and said that the minute we are done we need to pack up and hike all the way out. This meant hiking five more miles in the dark, right as we had planned on going to bed.

As the sun set, its reflection on the growing cloud of smoke was absolutely stunning but terrifying at the same time. The fire seemed so far away, but it was so much bigger than we had expected. We were able to see flames from the dark parking lot.

Across the West Coast, the blue skies that we have been used to seeing this summer have suddenly turned brown, grey, and in some places, bright red. According to Gov. Kate Brown, several people are dead and the state is battling 35 fires which continue to grow due to strong winds and hot air.

My group was never in any immediate danger. Our homes, besides our tents and some hammocks, were never at risk of burning down. We had a safe place to stay that night. Overall, my friends and I were very safe, we just complained about the extra walking. After feeling the adrenaline that pushed us out just 5 miles, it is hard to even imagine what it would be like to have our homes at risk to burn. Since we’ve been home, the fires have overtaken our state, something we had no idea was a possibility. People are abandoning their homes and lives in fear. Our experience with the fire was much less threatening compared to those experiencing true devastation, and I am so fortunate to be able to share this story as a single occurence, not a life-altering event.

The Oregon fires are the largest to occur in our state, and continue to devastated lives, land, and the environment, causing more turmoil in this already crazy year.

 

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