DORENA, Ore. -- As the fire on Row River Road destroyed homes Wednesday evening, the community came together to help fire crews fighting the fire. Crews had the blaze contained by Thursday morning.
Michelle Ellertson, who works as a home inspector, said she was in the area for work Wednesday when she saw smoke. She said she then drove over to the area where it was coming from so she could make sure everything was okay. When she arrived, she saw some structures already on fire.
KEZI 9 News spoke with Benjamin Besse, a resident in the area, Wednesday evening. Besse ended up losing his home in the fire. Before his home was destroyed by the flames, Ellertson saw Besse in his home and helped persuade him to leave.
Shortly after Besse left his home, he noticed his brother’s home next door was also on fire. At first, Besse thought he didn’t make it out. Ellertson said it was emotional until Besse’s brother pulled up to the house and they realized he was alright.
She said in that moment she was relieved but the experience gave her some perspective.
“It spread so fast. The house to the right of where the man lived, it looked like it was going to be fine,” Ellertson said. “In the evening, I went up just to check if everybody was ok and realized it had come behind and got that house as well."
“You really need to take a look at your property and your emergency procedures,” Ellertson said. “I thought, ‘What if my kids were home alone or something?' It happened so fast.”
Neighbor Tom Hans also witnessed the fire. He said he was on his way to work when his daughter called and told him the barn next door was on fire.
Hans said he immediately went back to see if he could help. When he got back to his house, he saw flames as tall as 50 feet.
He said putting out the fire was a community effort. Alongside fire crews who worked to stop the spread, he said neighbors also had garden hoses and buckets and were trying to put out the flames.
“I thank God it didn’t get my place and get my grass on fire because it probably would have burned everything we’ve got,” Hans said.
He said he feels blessed that his home made it out unscathed and now is trying to help some of his neighbors who weren’t so lucky.
Hans said between the dry conditions and the wind, it was just a dangerous situation.
Some animals did die in the fire, but there were no reported injuries.
In total, the fire burned 12 acres and destroyed seven structures.
Officials are still investigating the cause of the fire.