'As we passed through Lyons a couple of houses were gone, and I thought, "that could have happened to us." '
Parker Hanna, sophomore, Santiam Jr./Sr. High School
On the day of the fire, I was hanging out with my friends playing video games.
We were inside and we knew that there were fires in Gates, but we didn't think it was going to be that big a deal until the sky turned orange.
My mom asked me to come home. I took a step outside and it made me feel unsafe because I could feel the smoke in my lungs, so I asked my mom to pick me up.
We were home for a few hours before we started becoming worried. My grandpa didn't think the fire was that serious. He drove up to the cemetery in Gates. When he could see the fire up on the hill, that's when we knew it was serious.
My mom was very panicked and wanted to leave immediately. But my stepdad and I were calm and decided to stay for half an hour to pack up our things. We started packing important stuff that we thought we would need or the expensive stuff. I took some stuff out of my room. I got my PS4 and my Nintendo Switch because they were the most expensive stuff in my room.
We were very scared. My mom called our close friends to make sure they were safe.
When we were evacuating, I took one last look at my house to take it all in because that could possibly be the last time I saw it. As we were driving away, I thought of all my friends who weren't as fortunate and who lived near the fire and could lose their homes.
Around 11:30, we started our way to Albany.
The next day we were all very panicked. We tried to distract ourselves, but my parents were extremely worried and that's all they were talking about. They were looking at Facebook and news updates constantly, and it was very stressful. There was an insane amount of rumors that our house was gone, the whole town was gone.
We didn't know the truth until we got back here.
We waited a week to return home because the air was too unhealthy. The fire was still very active, and we heard that it could jump the river.
As we passed through Lyons a couple of houses were gone, and I thought, ‘that could have happened to us.’ I didn't really know for sure until I saw our whole neighborhood was good. I was just very happy and very fortunate.
I had a couple of friends that lost their homes, and some lost a bunch of stuff to smoke damage. It makes me sad to see that they've lived there their whole lives and they've lost everything, even some animals and livestock. It just makes me sad to see.
The wildfires have affected everyone. Santiam Canyon is a community where everyone has your back and takes care of each other. If something happens to someone, then it affects the whole community.
OSBA is telling personal stories of hope and perseverance from the state’s three hardest-hit districts: Phoenix-Talent, McKenzie and Santiam Canyon. These “Rising from the Ashes” stories, told in images and words, will show where support is needed most to help Oregon students and their families rebuild. OSBA has established a Wildfire Resources page that includes links to donate to the hardest-hit communities: Phoenix-Talent; McKenzie; and Santiam Canyon.