PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A wildfire that destroyed 36 homes in Eastern Oregon has expanded to 84 square miles and more people have been told to evacuate.
After a week of relentless burning, the Canyon Creek Complex fire just south of John Day is now 10% contained.
Lightning started the fire on August 12. Though home-threatening wildfires are a fact of life each summer, no Oregon wildfire since the Great Depression has destroyed more homes.
“I’ve never experienced anything like this myself,” Grant County resident Richard Friese told KOIN 6 News.
For those who call John Day home, the past week has been an experience all on its own. Giant clouds of smoke from the fire — which is now twice the size of Beaverton — can be seen for miles.
But one thing has been a constant since the blaze erupted: the community.
“People are very friendly with each other,” Friese said. “Especially now, they’ve all pulled together so closely.”
Signs thanking firefighters line Main Street and the Grant County Fairgrounds where fire crews have set up their makeshift homes.
“These things mean so much to us,” Portland Fire Lt. Damon Simmons said. “We’re away from our homes but there’s nowhere we’d rather be than serving and helping these people.”
On Wednesday, Governor Kate Brown visited John Day to thank firefighters for their service and meet with victims who recently lost their homes.
“I talked to several folks who have lost their homes in this tragedy,” Gov. Brown said. “As I said to them, our hearts go out to them and our thoughts and prayers are with them.”
Another 10 major wildfires are raging in Oregon, and Gov. Brown announced she is deploying National Guard troops to help.
At Grant Union High School, the Red Cross and other local agencies teamed up to offer services to those who may have lost a home, building or property.
Meanwhile, locals have come up with creative ways to raise money for those severely impacted by the fire.
“We’re selling T-shirts for the Canyon Creek Fire,” Averie Wenger said. “Some people have lost everything that they have.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report