Tue July 15, 2014
Wildfire Destroys Homes, Burns More than 2,000 Acres In South-Central Oregon
SPRAGUE RIVER, Ore. -- The Moccasin Hill wildfire has burned about 2,500 acres and destroyed up to 20 homes, forcing residents to seek shelter while waiting for federal aid to arrive.
Red Cross volunteers set up in the community center to help the victims.
Whistler’s Trading Post, one of a few stores in town, extended its hours and expanded its operations, serving food, taking in horses and providing overnight shelter for displaced residents.
“They had to evacuate their homes and had nowhere to go,” said Shannon Thompson, one of the owners. “So a lot of them were here.”
A handful of those who lost their homes said they have no insurance and will have to start from scratch.
Julie Moseley lived in the same house for 25 years. Until the fire, she shared it with her daughter, son-in-law and two granddaughters.
The family left in such a hurry, the flames even took her dentures.
“I have my clothes here and what a few people have given me — that’s it,” Moseley said Tuesday. “I’m just trying to hang on.”
The damage took place in a barebones subdivision connected by dirt roads. It still smells of burning ponderosa pines, juniper and sagebrush.
Some of the smoldering residences were trailers or shacks; others were woodframe homes with concrete foundations.
That was the case for Summer Swager and her husband, David Pool.
They got their horses safely out, but their home burned to the ground. They say they have no insurance.
“It’s disgusting. It’s heart-wrenching. It’s not fun,” Swager said.
Their spiral staircase twists into the sky like exposed ribs. A metal bedframe stands amongst ashes.
“There’s no snowpack in the mountains, there’s no water in the rivers, there’s no water in the creeks. It’s too dry,” Swager added.
Federal officials made a disaster declaration for the Moccasin Hill Fire but no aid had arrived as of Tuesday afternoon.
The 400 firefighters deployed by Oregon Department of Forestry are trying to fully contain the blaze by the weekend — when weather forecasts call for possible lightning.
Sprague River residents say they’re appreciative of the work of all the firefighters.
Mark Steadman said firefighters staged around his modular home and kept it protected.
“They saved my mobile. I’m so grateful. My neighbor’s house is burnt to the ground,” Steadman said.
The ODF incident commander, Chris Cline, said last summer was Oregon’s worst wildfire season in 25 years — and he expects this year to be even worse.
“Currently we’re on track in fire season 2014 to either match or exceed the numbers that were set last year—so things are at a critical level,” Cline said.
Investigators were still assessing the cause of the Moccasin Hill fire.