(Update: Adding comment on lack of Level 3 evacuation)
Investigators told family: 'The fire was so hot, it melted the wheels off the car'
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- A nightmare: That's what Travis Cook feels like he's been living in over the past few days.
The Bend man's mother, Cathy, and his brother, Justin, were tragically killed by the Beachie Creek Fire in Marion County last week.
Cook last spoke with his family members on Sept. 7, as the two were packing up to evacuate.
He said he knew something was wrong when he didn't hear from them the following day.
After a week of searching for Cathy and Justin by authorities, Cook's worst fears became reality.
The Marion County Sheriff's Office confirmed to Cook on Monday that both his mother and brother failed to make it out in time.
Prior to the devastating news, Cook and several family members drove from Bend to the Santiam Canyon, in search of answers.
Cook's brother-in-law, Steve Breedlove, showed up the next day. He still can't fathom the news either.
"There was hardly anything left of the vehicle they were trying to get in," Breedlove said they were told. "The wheels on the car were melted off."
We asked Cook: Where does he go from here?
"I still don't know, to be honest with you," said Cook. "It's been so hard to take this in, and to even accept it."
Cook said his mother and brother never received a Level 3 "Go Now" evacuation order.
Despite their efforts to escape, the wrath of Oregon's wildfires were just too much.
His message to others who find themselves in a similar situation is clear.
"Leave if you can. Don't wait," Cook said. "Why wait it out? It's not worth it."
Cook's brother-in-law told NewsChannel 21 he wanted the focus to be not on his family's tragedy, but on preventing future losses of life in such fast-changing, emergency situations.
"When the towns of Lyons, Detroit, Gates and Mill City were issued a Level 2 evacuation, the Elkhorn Valley area should have been issued a Level 3," Breedlove said.