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Santiam Canyon pummeled by wildfire; Mill City homes, businesses lost, mayor says

It was so dark, it looked like 'midnight on a moonless night'

REDMOND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Imagine driving through blood orange skies, as you quickly evacuate a home you may never return to.

Many Oregonians are going through this exact experience as fires across Santiam Canyon rapidly spread, one of many wildfires around the region threatening or even destroying homes and businesses.

The small town of Mill City has been one of the hardest hit-areas. Many reports over social media claimed that the entire town had burned to the ground.

NewsChannel 21 spoke late Tuesday with Mill City Mayor Tim Kirsch, who didn't evacuate until 2:30 a.m.

"Visually, you would've thought it was midnight on a moonless night," Kirsch said. "It was dark and black. The ash in the air was so thick, you could cut it with a knife."

Kirsch said the fire was burning on both sides of state Highway 22 as he left. He said the flames were so hot, he could feel the heat inside his car.

Kirsch is currently working with both Linn and Marion counties to update evacuees. He said the federal government has also reached out to offer assistance.

The damage is still being investigated by county and fire officials, but Kirsch said he believes the center of the city is unscathed. He said major businesses on the outskirts of town were destroyed.

Dozens of homes along the Santiam River also have been lost.

"It's tragic, and I anticipate it to take years for us to rebuild," Kirsch said.

With evacuees looking for answers and a helping hand during such desperate times, the American Red Cross has stepped in.

A temporary evacuation point has been set up at the Deschutes County Fairgrounds near the Redmond Airport, one of several related to the fire, including one at the Oregon State Fairgrounds.

"Our goal is when they do come here, that we make arrangements for them to stay in nearby hotels," said Nadine McCrindle, executive director for the Red Cross in Central and Eastern Oregon. "We want them to try and relax a little bit while they're waiting for news."

McCrindle said more than 80 evacuees have been set up at the Super 8 Motel in Redmond.

She said they will continue to support those in need for as long as necessary.

Animals are also being sheltered at the fairgrounds until further notice.

Despite the efforts of first responders all across Oregon, the destruction of towns like Mill City serve as a reminder of the dark reality facing the state.

Central Oregon / Deschutes County / Fire / Fire Alert / Redmond / Top Stories
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Alec Nolan

Alec Nolan is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Alec here.



  1. Log it, graze it, or watch it burn. My heart goes out to the people whose lives have been dramatically changed by this. Hopefully we only lose possessions due to these fires.

  2. So we are still not being told “what caused” these fires… “high winds” that toppled PGE electrical lines- like the devastation we saw in Northern California last year ?

    Are they the culprits again ? If so- why are we seeing these mass fires now ? We’ve had power lines in our forests for decades- and if they have become such a large source of wildfire- why aren’t the new cables being dug underground-while large numbers of crews go out and bury the old ones… I just left parts of the US East oast where this is happening in neighborhoods everywhere… so why not Oregon ?

    Because Kate Brown would rather punish Oregonians over a fake pandemic response than actually “lead” the state in protecting our natural resources over an issue we’ve seen coming for decades.

    Go ahead- prove me wrong !

          1. “PGE (Portland General Electric) is. The two get confused often.”

            But clearly not this time- as “real native Oregonians” know the difference- but since we are talking “confusion”… Z21 is running a “weather alert” banner- why not a “fire alert” ?

            1. Once again Martha- all that arrogance and mouth foam !

              Yer missing the point- that power lines should be placed underground and not within large scale forests where trees can collapse on top of them and start wildfires… we learned much more about this from the Ca. Sonoma fires last year- the first time a major supplier of infrastructure admitted their involvement.

              But you just go right ahead stomping your feet in frustration- these west coast fires prove once again that your demokkkrats have lost the ability to lead the region in any arena ! They’ve failed at Law and Order- Immigration- Environmentalism- race relations- Social justice- protection of civil liberties and human rights- hell- they’re all still scared to death of a simple virus… yet out in Prineville… the kids are going back to school !

              All Hail Prineville !

    1. First of all BGHW is a one track mind. You are BORING. Get over yourself and your fetish with our Governor. I believe that the fire that burned into Hwy 22 was caused by a crazy wind that swept embers from the Beachie Creek fire near Opal Creek. And I believe that that fire was lightning caused – still noted as “unknown”. That is called Mother Nature and is not always kind. Mix in climate change (of which I am pretty sure you are a non believer) and you have a nasty situation.

      I feel for the folks in Mil City, Gates & Detroit. We used to own a log cabin (built in 1944) on the river in Mill City. I pray that it survived. I will miss Giovanni’s Pizza (for a while). Not sure if Rosie’s Coffee survived.

      1. So tell us all “bumbling bison”- just when did that electrical storm magically appear ? There hasn’t been a cloud in the sky for weeks !

        And yes indeed- I have a bone to pick with the Governor of the State of Oregon- these out of control fires have been piling up for years now- and accurately predicted by loggers- mill workers- and woodcraft professionals for decades.

        Professional people who understand forest management- and now that it’s all turned on it’s head- you all wanna duck and cover yer eyes- call it a “nasty situation” !

        Well… I call the current destruction of the state’s overall political leadership. state finances- law and order- and environmental protection… a complete and historically bad… “nasty situation”.

        What else you got besides yer boredom ?

        1. you are such an ugly, awful human being. Somehow, this entire tragic story has turned, yet again, into your own personal poster board for garbage and your own need for attention. OK big fella, you got it. We are all watching you make an a$$ of yourself yet again, but yet again you will think this is a farce and you will feel unscathed. You are a loud mouth ill spirited moron. Go away already, no one wants you here. Blabber on meathead

          1. Thank you JimmyDean. Well said.
            He can Monday morning quaterback all he wants. Easy to do from his living room. If you are so smart, run for office and get to work. Otherwise – SHUT UP!!!!

            1. And you can make up garbage till the cows come home. You still haven’t explained your lightning theory from last night- when even the failed Governor Brown said it was mostly due to electrical power lines coming down.

              Obviously most “smart” people know to stay away from political office- there’s nothing positive about being a greasy back stabbing office holder who makes a living out of lying to the local public for bags of silver.

              So there ya go- “SHUT UP” !!!!

          2. Hey Jimmy- go stuff yer sausage in some casing before Big Bad john shows up and washes yer mouth out with Borax !

            You spent all that worthless time on the keyboard ranting about me- spittin at me- slingin mud… at me ! And I’m willin’ to bet my prize winnin’ hen (Shirley) that you didn’t sign the petition to recall the State’s Governor !

            Oh- but I’m the loud mouth- the moron- the meathead ??? You wanna see real ugly- real awful- real useless blabber… go look in the mirror !

            You don’t have to read my posts- you could scroll on by- but like many here- yer a hater ! you need someone to shout at- call names- you bring nothing to the discussion but a bad attitude and zero gray matter ! The real tragedy around here is useless bags of dirt like you who have no answers- only crocodile tears and fake outrage- yer absolutely hopeless !

        2. I continue to my marvel at the continued hate / vitriol that seems to fill your cup.

          Loss of life/ homes/ property destroyed and wildlife greatly affected and you are all about Kate Brown and this being her fault.


          You have my sympathies …it must be painful navigating life such as you do… I hope you find peace as your journey continues.

          And as always…feel free to attack me, it seems to fill your cup to be so hateful.

          1. And as always- it is “you” that have attacked me- my comments- my freedom of speech first… and then whine about the fallout from doing so. Yer kinda sick that way aren’t you !

    2. As for underground electric cables . . . It’s a job/employment thingy. Minnesota buries their cable, WA and OR claim the freezing and thawing destroys the cable. By keeping it above ground, they have to repair/replace every time there is a big wind storm or snow storm. That means they have to bring in additional crews and lots of over-time.

  3. It sure is sad that KTVZ can’t get more accurate up to date reporting. Their pages are filled with a lot of old crap. Get some people out in the field and get what the hell is happening, and not the same crap from 3 days ago. I know they are just filling up space but why does it take 3 people in the AM to report such little bit of news. More about a dog or cat at the pound. I do realize they are a training ground for the beginners and don’t pay much and when they get a little experience off to bigger and better jobs.

    1. I agree about the old outdated stories. I’ve seen some, and have also been seeing
      duplicates of the same story again. It was a problem in the past but it had improved.
      As far as updated reporting, it seems like there should be more activity but I guess
      you can’t report what you don’t have…
      I have been watching two stations from Eugene, as well as two that are from Portland because they have more diverse and updated coverage in general about the fires in all areas, and they post new or updated stories a lot faster than Z21…

      In all fairness to Z21, the updates from those other stations seem to have slowed down some as well. There are a few things that trickle in but not what you would expect given the number and severity of the fires. Because it has affected other stations as well, I don’t think it’s so much a lack of effort on Z21’s part, but rather a lack of info being released, and if that’s the case, I don’t understand why because with all of the activity that is currently going on all over the state, as well as the damage that has already been done, you would think there would be a lot of new information being learned all the time.
      I wonder if the communication issues that they are having in several areas is partly to blame for what seems to be a lack of or a reduction in the updates ?

      1. “I don’t think it’s so much a lack of effort on Z21’s part”

        It appears to me that there isn’t as much “networking” between the stations anymore… and I’m not sure if that is due to competition or political ideologies.

        I just find it unfortunate that the Governor won’t speak directly to Z21- and many of the stations you referred to are also not “sharing”… it’s like the Z is out there on their own and I wonder why ? In desperate times like these- it’s sad not to have any friends you can count on.

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