OAKRIDGE, Ore. -- On September 9, with the Cedar Creek Fire looking to expand rapidly, Oakridge residents evacuated the community under a pall of smoke as the sun set. One week later, many residents have returned to their homes and community officials are looking back at the response.
On September 9, the Cedar Creek Fire was burning tens of thousands of acres not far from Oakridge. Heavy winds and high temperatures threatened to push the fire into the community, prompting officials to order residents to evacuate hastily. As people left town, they did not know what they would return to. Chrissy Hollett, the mayor of Oakridge, says people responded well.
“I feel like most of the population really took heed and left, especially that part of the population that had transportation, health, mobility and extra needs,” Hollett said. “We really needed those people to get down the hill first.”
Oakridge was under strict evacuation orders for the next 48 hours. Residents returned to find that after two days without power, food had spoiled in refrigerators. Organizations like Food for Lane County picked up the slack to try to bring supplies to the community, but the mayor is taking it as a learning opportunity for the next time the community is forced to evacuate.
“I hope that those people who have important, really valuable items, maybe those are set aside,” Hollett said. “We talked about this in some events. Put those things in a box, have them ready, especially when you already know there is a fire on the mountain, just have it ready. Maybe it's already in the car, or in the garage or something... but be in an even more state of readiness.”
Hollett says the situation was tense for a lot of people, and while she hopes they will not have to experience another evacuation, she knows it’s possible. In fact, with the Cedar Creek Fire burning more than 93,000 acres at 0% containment as of September 16, it could be sooner than later.