Spreading wildfire prompts evacuation of Santiam Canyon communities

A trail cam captures wildfire burning outside Gates late Monday, Sept. 7, 2020 (Rick Perlichek video)

UPDATE: Aumsville, west of Stayton, was given a notice to be ready to evacuate late Tuesday morning.

UPDATE: Scotts Mill and the Drakes Crossing areas, east of Salem and north of Oregon Highway 22, were ordered evacuated Tuesday morning.

UPDATE: Stayton and Sublimity residents were put on alert Tuesday morning to be ready to evacuate.

Residents along a 50-mile stretch of the Santiam Highway were ordered to evacuate overnight Monday as a fast-spreading wildfire pushed into the Santiam Canyon.

Oregon Highway 22 was closed eastbound at Stayton and westbound at the Santiam Junction.

At 4:35 a.m. Tuesday, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office expanded the evacuation area to include territory along Oregon Highway 214 north of Mehama, in the area of Silver Creek Falls State Park.

Through the night, evacuation orders were expanded to include the communities of Mehama, Gates, Mill City, Detroit and Idanha. The evacuations came at the close of the Labor Day weekend.

The sheriff’s office said in a statement at 3:20 a.m. Tuesday., “Conditions in the Santiam Canyon east of Mehama have become extremely dangerous and all residents who have not yet evacuated need to do so immediately.”

The American Red Cross has opened an evacuation staging area at the state fairgrounds in Salem.  An information line has been established at 503-391-7294. 

“We care deeply about the safety of all of our community members,” said Marion County Sheriff Joe Kast in a statement. “The extreme fire activity in the area poses an imminent danger to anyone who chooses to remain in the evacuated area. Our deputies are committed to helping keep our community safe; however, conditions have become too dangerous for them to continue with evacuation efforts at this time. I encourage anyone still in the Santiam Canyon to leave immediately following the deputies out of the area. I cannot say when the conditions will allow deputies and other emergency responders to return to the area to render assistance. Please leave now.”

The Beachie Creek Fire started in the Opal Creek Wilderness on Sunday, Aug. 16.

Video posted on social media showed homes and at least one business burning in Mill City. The city on its Facebook page said Tuesday morning: “At this time we have no information on the status of our homes, businesses and community.”

Fire officials also were dealing with significant wildfires at other locations around the state, including one prompting evacuations in the McKenzie River canyon east of Springfield.

This story will be updated.

Volunteers hand out water at the Oregon State Fairgrounds in Salem on Tuesday, Sept. 8. The fairgrounds is one of the evacuation centers opened to handle those forced to flee an out-of-control wildfire burning through the Santiam Canyon. (Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)

Lindsey Nelson of Gates recorded this video as she evacuated and drove through Mill City. Warning: Graphic language.

A photo provided by the Marion County Sheriff’s Office shows wildfire burning in the Santiam Canyon on Monday, Sept. 7.

DO YOU HAVE INFORMATION? If you have details about the fire or photos or videos to share, please contact Salem Reporter at [email protected] so we can provide updated information.