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Wildfires prompt overnight evacuations of Santiam Canyon, McKenzie River area

Fire Hwy. 22 Gates area Dave Ewing 98
Dave Ewing
Wildfire glows along Hwy. 22 near Gates early Tuesday, Sept. 12 as residents are evacuated, motorists seek safe route.

(Update: Level 3 "Go Now" evacuations; Hwy. 22/126 closures)

DETROIT, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Wind-fanned wildfires prompted a widespread Level 3 “Go Now” evacuation of the Santiam Canyon early Tuesday morning, from Mehama east to Idanha, including Mill City, Gates, Detroit and the North Fork corridor, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office reported.

“Residents are being urged to leave the area immediately,” the agency said in a Facebook posting.

Residents evacuating Detroit and Idanha were urged to head east, to the Santiam Junction with U.S. Highway 20. Earlier, the sheriff’s office said they requested that Highway 22 be closed eastbound from Stayton to Santiam Junction to allow evacuees and fire personnel clear passage.

ODOT advised early Tuesday that wildfires had closed a nearly 70-mile stretch (milepost 82 to 13) of state Highway 22 between Stayton and the Santiam Junction with Highway 20, and a 26-mile stretch (milepost 28-54) of state Highway 126 (the McKenzie Highway) between Vida and state Highway 242.

"Evacuations are underway in both areas," the advised. "Watch for fire crews."

An information line for affected residents was being established by Marion County Emergency Management at 503-391-7294. They also worked with the American Red Cross to establish an evacuation staging area at the Oregon State Fairgrounds, 2330 17th Street NE in Salem.

Meanwhile, the Lane County Sheriff's Office issued Level 3 "Go Now" evacuations along Highway 126 from Leaburg to the McKenzie Ranger Station in McKenzie Bridge, their Facebook posting stated.

"GO NOW!" they advised. "DO NOT delay leaving your property to gather any belongings or make efforts to protect your home. If you choose to ignore this notice, public safety personnel may not be available to assist you further."

Earlier Monday night, the Marion County Sheriff's Office said the growing Beachie Creek and Lionshead fires had prompted Level 3 evacuation orders for Breitenbush Hot Springs and the Devil’s Creek summer home community in eastern Marion County.

A Level 2 “Be Set” pre-evacuation notice was issued effective noon Tuesday for areas north of state Highway 22 between Gates Hill Road SE to Breitenbush Road SE, including the city of Detroit.

But Monday night's fast-spreading blazes made that plan obsolete.

Deputies said the advance notice was issued due to high winds and low humidity, creating the potential for significant growth of both fires.

The Beachie Creek Fire in the Opal Creek Wilderness Area six miles north of Detroit had burned more than 500 acres by Monday, while the Lionshead Fire has burned close to 19,000 acres.

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Barney Lerten

Barney is the digital content director for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Barney here.

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