'It's nothing but burnt sticks right now,' Melanie Stanley says -- but 'we are McKenzie Strong'
(Update: Adding video, comments from Blue River resident)
BLUE RIVER, Ore. (KTVZ) -- As the Holiday Farm Fire rages on, burning 145,000 acres as of Thursday, people who had to evacuate the McKenzie River Valley are left wondering if they will have homes to return to. And the answer will be tragic for far too many.
Fire crews say resources are scarce as the fire continues to burn through several communities in Lane County.
NewsChannel 21 spoke Thursday with Melanie Stanley, affectionately known as the “unofficial mayor” of Blue River. She said children also call her “Aunt Melanie.”
Stanley said she first evacuated to the parking lot of Thurston High School in Springfield, along with hundreds of others escaping the McKenzie River Valley.
“The town of Blue River is 100% gone,” Stanley said. “Our area was beautiful, and it’s nothing but burnt sticks right now.”
As of Thursday, Stanley is staying in a hotel in Eugene, awaiting word from fire officials as to when it's safe to return -- and if there's a home for her to return to.
“Whenever everybody is like, ‘We just want to get home to try to figure out what to do next’ -- there’s no ‘What next?’ right now,” Stanley said.
According to Stanley, Blue River is made up of about 150 people, with about 2,500 total residents between Rainbow and McKenzie Bridge.
“It burned straight through Blue River,” Stanley said. “Pretty much from Blue River Park to the highway, there’s nothing left. There’s zero.”
She described it as apocalyptic, saying an unknown number of homes have burned to the ground, and only poles stand in places where signs used to be.
She said while fire crews have strongly advised people to evacuate, some residents chose to stay behind, to guard their property from possible looters.
“I want everybody who wants to come back to the McKenzie to be able to come back to the McKenzie,” Stanley said. “We are 'McKenzie Strong.'”
Evacuations remain in place for the communities of Vida, Blue River, Mohawk, McKenzie Bridge, Leaburg and Walterville.
For the most updated information on the Holiday Farm Fire, visit the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center’s website or the fire's InciWeb page.