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Beachie Creek Fire claims lives of Bend man’s mother, brother

(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.

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

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

Comments

11 Comments

  1. Ive known travis for decades as the owner of goodyear auto care which is my favorite shop in town, i heard about this the other day getting an oil change, its so sad… his mother did a good job with him however, hes a kind and gentle soul, very hardworking and runs a successful respected business in a cut throat industry

  2. Unfortunately our goal for this video was not to talk about the heartbreaking loss of life but preventing it.
    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 evac.
    There was an uncontrolled wildfire N.-N.E. of that area with a forecast of a high wind advisory blowing to the S.-S.W.
    The power lines continued to have power supplied to them throughout the event that helped move this wildfire at over 2 acres per second when they got knocked down by trees.
    I am not a professional on wildfires but looking back at this I feel they could have done things a little different.

    Our goal of this interview to warn others of the dangers. Please ask yourself- do I have more than 1 way out of this area? Do I NEED to wait until the last second? There are many questions you should ask yourself depending on the weather.

    The news channels have been relentless and only want to focus on the sadness of this event.

    Please give space to the Cook family during this horrible time. Thank you all.

      1. The last I heard- (I think it was here on this forum)- is there was no emergency evacuation plan for Juniper Canyon in Prineville… and there are numerous individuals out there that slash burn large piles of debris- and just walk away from them every Fall. Just a matter of time !

  3. Something needs to be done with the power lines. In the last couple years alone, they have cost an awful toll in lost life, not to mention the actual $ in lost housing, timber, productivity, healthcare costs etc. It’s past time to clear out underneath, and a swath wide enough on both sides to make a tree hitting them impossible.

  4. To Travis and family…. I cried when I saw you on Lester Holt! My sympathy and prayers go to you.
    As someone mentioned. You have a heart of gold and are full of kindness to everyone. I wish there was something more I could say at a time like this. Stay strong, God Bless.

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