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US 'Everything's gone': Many neighborhoods destroyed as fire, smoke devastate Oregon families, workers and homeless

22:19  14 september  2020
22:19  14 september  2020 Source:   usatoday.com

Mapping a wildfire's next move is getting easier, thanks to computers

  Mapping a wildfire's next move is getting easier, thanks to computers Fire-predicting software can project how a fire could spread -- while it's still burning.A firefighter monitors flames during the Camp Fire in Northern California in 2018. Software aims to help responders get ahead of wildfires by projecting what the blaze might do next.

As fires heavily damaged the small Oregon towns of Phoenix and Talent, the Medford Police Department posted on Facebook that officers had not arrested anyone ' Everything ' s gone ': Many neighborhoods destroyed as fire , smoke devastate Oregon families , workers and homeless .

Smoke from U.S. forest fires blew in to Alberta on Saturday, prompting Environment and Climate Change Canada to issue air quality alerts for the southwest portion of the ' Everything ' s gone ': Many neighborhoods destroyed as fire , smoke devastate Oregon families , workers and homeless .

PHOENIX, Ore. – Betty Stevens stumbled down the street that had until a few hours ago seemed so familiar, her feet crunching through ash and debris as she entered the smoking remains of her neighborhood. There were melted street signs. Trees burned down to stumps. Power lines across the road. And everywhere she turned, choking, acrid smoke.

Oregon residents assess losses as fires still burn
  'Everything's gone': Many neighborhoods destroyed as fire, smoke devastate Oregon families, workers and homeless USA TODAY See more videos
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    Historic fires are raging in the western US. In the worst-affected states of California, Oregon and Washington Authorities in the state are also struggling to handle a deluge of misinformation about the fires , as people spread unsubstantiated Especially any of the neighborhood groups you may be in.

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Sobbing behind the face mask she normally wears for her job as a hospital respiratory therapist helping coronavirus patients, Stevens, 31, video recorded herself earlier this week as she stumbled through the neighborhood, raw emotion in her voice, sometimes unable to form words, moaning in obvious pain.

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More than 500 square miles of Oregon are on fire , Brown said. Nearly all of the state’ s half dozen or so biggest fires are There was no containment on the Santiam fire , as of Tuesday evening. “ Fires are not at all out in Talent and Phoenix and the destruction is horribly significant,” Hanks said in his

Most of the houses surrounding Candell' s were destroyed . "It' s just, you know, devastating Oregon city 'looks as though a bomb went off' as fires continue to scorch the West Coast. A firefighter watches the LNU Lightning Complex fires spread through the Berryessa Estates neighborhood in

"I think everything's gone," she says as the rising sun illuminates the destruction. "This doesn’t do justice to how terrifying and horrific this is, seeing how devastated everything is. Our homes are gone. Our homes are completely gone."

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The Alameda fire is one of more than 2,000 wildfires that have burned through the western United States in the past weeks, forcing tens of thousands of people to evacuate their homes from Colorado to California and Oregon, and enveloping millions in choking, toxic smoke considered hazardous to breathe.

a person standing in front of a building: Betty Stevens, her husband, Fred Andrews, and their daughter Eleanor visit a friend's house in Medford, Ore., several days after losing their home in the Almeda wildfire. © Trevor Hughes, Trevor Hughes-USA TODAY NETWORK Betty Stevens, her husband, Fred Andrews, and their daughter Eleanor visit a friend's house in Medford, Ore., several days after losing their home in the Almeda wildfire.

In Oregon, the fires have blazed through more than 1 million acres,  and the National Weather Service issued a “red flag warning” Sunday, warning that winds of 40 mph could “likely contribute to a significant spread" of fires in southern Oregon.

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Houses and vehicles in the Bear Lakes Estates neighborhood which were left devastated by the Almeda fire are seen in Phoenix, Oregon , September 9. An unprecedented spate of fierce, wind-driven wildfires in Oregon have all but destroyed five small more . Reuters / Thursday, September 10, 2020.

The fires devastated some isolated communities. In Oregon , a fast-moving wildfire caused The fires came during a Labor Day weekend that trapped many outdoors enthusiasts in the back Dad guided to safety by worried daughter as fire closes in. For a few anxious hours, Ali Amaya tried to

In Almeda, before the fire stopped burning, intense winds fanning the flames made the fire skip around, burning some neighborhoods to the ground and leaving other properties across the street untouched. Many of the destroyed homes were mobile homes or trailers housing some of the area's poorest residents. Tens of thousands of people were evacuated in the initial fire as authorities feared it would burn into Medford, one of the state's most populous cities with roughly 83,000 people.

"It is apocalyptic,” Democratic U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon said Sunday on the ABC program “This Week.” “I drove 600 miles up and down the state, and I never escaped the smoke. We have thousands of people who have lost their homes."

Experts say helping people left homeless by the fires will be complicated by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and dramatic rise in unemployment. Four people are confirmed dead.

A family loses everything. Diapers. Clothes. Food. Their home.

For families who have lived through the historic natural disaster, it has been a week of widespread loss.

For 15 agonizing hours last week, Stevens and her husband, Fred Andrews, had worried about the fate of their townhome in this suburb of Medford, Oregon, as the ferocious wind-driven Almeda wildfire raced toward their community.

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At first, they figured the evacuation was just a precaution. Andrews assumed they'd be out for a few hours at most, and then they could return. That night, he fell asleep listing to the crackle of police radios on his iPhone, exhausted from trying to make sense of what he was hearing about a fire that was supposedly two towns away. While he slept, Stevens picked up an extra shift at the Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center, helping patients and filling in for colleagues who couldn’t get past roadblocks.

She got home just after 2 a.m., but was too anxious to sleep. Almost everything they owned was in that 1,600-square-foot blue-gray townhome and its garage, from their new SUV to baby Eleanor's birth certificate issued 23 months ago. Diapers. Clothes. Food. It was the first place they'd ever owned, a real home for their little family.

For hours, she worried about its fate, and what had happened to the neighbors who'd become friends, who'd brought over cookies and welcome gifts in the 11 months the family lived in the 18-unit complex. So she slid into her Birkenstock sandals, drove to the Home Depot near her home and started walking into the fire.

“Not knowing was absolutely tearing me up,” says Stevens a few days later, reflecting on her dangerous decision to walk alone, in the middle of the night, into a disaster zone. “It wasn’t just my life. It was everyone else’s I was carrying. This was so devastating because I knew these people. It wasn’t just a neighborhood. It was a community. And I realized I had the responsibility to tell 17 other families they didn’t have a home, either."

Californians moved to Oregon for affordable housing. Wildfires left them homeless

  Californians moved to Oregon for affordable housing. Wildfires left them homeless Oregon wildfires leave California transplants homeless and facing rising housing costs.For a time, King and her children were homeless. Then, they moved into a small travel trailer in Phoenix, a working-class community of 4,500 about 35 miles north of the California border. Six years ago, a neighbor heading into a nursing home gave them her double-wide 1965 mobile home, with three bedrooms. The rent: $600 a month, including utilities.

Cause of fire remains unknown

Authorities say at least 600 homes were damaged or destroyed as the fire rampaged through Ashland, Talent and Phoenix before firefighters stopped it close to the Medford city limits. Although the main fire started around 11 a.m., on Tuesday near an Ashland skate park and began racing north, several other smaller fires broke out as the winds threw embers into neighborhoods and along Highway 99.

Police arrested a man they said started a fire around 5 p.m., about half a mile from Stevens' home, as the main fire approached. At least four people are confirmed dead, and the cause of the first fire remains under investigation.

Medford-area evacuee Steven Ward, 29, left one of the area's homeless encampments just two days before the fire broke out and burned through the area.

"We had some friends at the camp who had to jump into the creek to escape," Ward says. "It’s a story worthy of Hollywood what they went through.”

Over the weekend, Ward was living in a broken-down RV parked at a local Walmart. Dozens of homeless evacuees had set up tents or parked campers at the store.

“Everybody has lost something," says Ward.

A community faces its greatest loss

The skies were still clogged with smoke Saturday and Sunday. Firefighters were patrolling the burn area and members of the Oregon National Guard were enforcing a closure order as police cruised the empty streets for possible looters.

Saturday morning, Scott Coash kept a wary eye out for trespassers as he and his wife, Cindy, walked into their undamaged but largely deserted neighborhood a few blocks from where Stevens' home used to stand. Carrying a cooler of sandwiches in water in one hand, a gun on one hip and a bottle of hand sanitizer on the other, Coash counted himself lucky –-- the flames were diverted by a hill across the street from their home, and the fire burned away despite winds throwing burning embers into his yard.

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  Oregon Fire Map, Update as Over 3,000 State Residents Apply for FEMA Aid The Echo Mountain Complex wildfire is 90 percent contained, according to emergency service officials.According to the daily update by the Oregon Office of Emergency Management (OEM), approximately 1 million acres of land has been burned by wildfires, which have destroyed 2,268 homes and a further 1,556 other structures.

a close up of a stone building: Charred vehicles sit inside a burned auto-repair shop outside Medford, Ore., following the passage of the Almeda fire. © Trevor Hughes, Trevor Hughes-USA TODAY NETWORK Charred vehicles sit inside a burned auto-repair shop outside Medford, Ore., following the passage of the Almeda fire.

Approaching their home, Coash, 64, set down the cooler, unholstered his 9 mm Glock and chambered a round, the unmistakable "click-clack" echoing through the empty streets as he pulled out his keys and opened the door. Coash didn't want Cindy, 62, entering the house until he'd had a chance to make sure no one was lurking inside. Like many people forced to leave their homes during a wildfire, Coash was worried looters would sneak in the way they have in other areas, including after 2018 Camp Fire in Paradise, California.

“This is our Katrina. This is our Paradise. You see it on TV but you can never understand unless you go through it," said Coash, a boiler plant operator at a local university. "You don’t understand the full effect until you walk through it, smell it, see it.”

a man standing on a sidewalk: Scott Coash, left, carries a cooler, hand sanitizer and a handgun as he walks into his evacuated neighborhood with his wife Cindy and their dog Bella, near Medford, Oregon, following the passage of the Almeda fire. © Trevor Hughes, Trevor Hughes-USA TODAY NETWORK Scott Coash, left, carries a cooler, hand sanitizer and a handgun as he walks into his evacuated neighborhood with his wife Cindy and their dog Bella, near Medford, Oregon, following the passage of the Almeda fire.

Stevens was struggling to understand the devastation. She found herself trying to help other fire victims with belongings she no longer owns. At one point, she offered up a portable air conditioner before realizing she didn't have it anymore.

"We woke up that morning wondering how we were going to survive," her husband says.

Andrews says he hasn't watched the video his wife took of their home. "I was basically not allowing myself to feel anything."

Hospital staff devastated by fire

Fire victim Noemi Alvarez, 42, was working as a housekeeper at the hospital as the flames consumed the three-bedroom home of 15 years she had shared with her husband, Jesus, and their five children.

"I couldn't think straight, calling my family constantly," she says. "I was so worried. It was a hard day."

Jesus and the kids fled to his brother's house. Alvarez joined them after her shift. They prayed and offered thanks.

The family worries a different wildfire burning a few miles away might race toward them if the weather changes.

"Sometimes I think it's just a dream," says Jesus Alvarez, 46, who was home the day of the fire because he had badly cut his hand the week before while working as a carpenter. "We lost a lot of things. But we will stay together. We are together. That makes the family strong."

Sheri Croy, who also worked for the Asante health care system, fled the fire with her family. After stuffing their new puppy, a second dog and a bearded dragon lizard named Mushu into their car, Croy told her husband she wanted a few minutes to gather documents and mementoes.

"He looked outside at this black wall coming toward us and he's like, 'there's no time,'" says Croy. "There was definitely crying and screaming from me in the car."

The fire took a particular toll on workers at Asante, the region's largest employer, with at least 80 workers losing their homes in a single day. Now, the health care system's managers have set up food banks, laundry services and clothing drives to help its displaced employees, many of whom continued going to work because patients still need care. It has also launched a donation campaign to aid community members. The Red Cross is helping coordinate donations that will directly help other fire victims.

Family refuses to leave Oregon, looks to rebuild

In the first few hours after they learned their house had been destroyed, Stevens and Andrews contemplated leaving Jackson County entirely, maybe back to Portland or even to New York. Maybe this was a sign to give up, give in, head out.

Andrews had spent the day on the phone, dealing with the mortgage and the car loan and their insurance. Like many who lost their homes, Andrews and Stevens don't yet know whether insurance would cover rebuilding, or what federal aid might be available. A relative established an online donation fund and friends quickly chipped in $700.

Exhausted, Stevens collapsed into bed. She woke up a few hours later to discover people had poured in more than $20,000 toward the fund. It's now over $25,000.

The display of support has convinced the family to stay and rebuild.

"We needed to see that we mattered to this community, and they've shown us that," Stevens says. "It would be wrong to take their kindness and leave. We need to stay and pay it forward. These are people who are so-called to action -– they've dropped everything and ransacked their own homes to help us. And not just us. All the others. I have never been part of a community so willing to help. I don't think we could live anywhere else."

A firefighter takes a picture of a relative's destroyed home near Medford, Ore., following the passage of the Almeda fire. © Trevor Hughes, Trevor Hughes-USA TODAY NETWORK A firefighter takes a picture of a relative's destroyed home near Medford, Ore., following the passage of the Almeda fire.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'Everything's gone': Many neighborhoods destroyed as fire, smoke devastate Oregon families, workers and homeless


Video: 'I've Got Nothing Left': North Complex West Zone Evacuees Living Out Of Cars Awaiting Shelter (CBS Sacramento)

'I've Got Nothing Left': North Complex West Zone Evacuees Living Out Of Cars Awaiting Shelter
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The Echo Mountain Complex wildfire is 90 percent contained, according to emergency service officials.According to the daily update by the Oregon Office of Emergency Management (OEM), approximately 1 million acres of land has been burned by wildfires, which have destroyed 2,268 homes and a further 1,556 other structures.

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