Woman who escaped Santiam Canyon fire in car trunk finally learns who saved her life

Kirril Lykov took a photo of his car while fires were burning in the Santiam Canyon. (Courtesy/ Kirril Lykov)

Kirill Lykov is his name and he likely saved a life.

Bonnie Sullivan had no clue who he was when she climbed into the open trunk of his car for a harrowing escape from the Beachie Creek Fire. She never got his name as he dropped her off to safety and took off.

A coworker of Lykov, who works at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Real Estate Professionals in Salem, solved the mystery after reading of Sullivan’s flight in an account published by Salem Reporter. The coworker thought Lykov, a broker, was one of the key unidentified characters in the story, which traced events of that night.

Bonnie Sullivan awoke in her riverside home to the notification of evacuations but couldn’t get her vehicle out of the garage since power had gone out. She hiked up to Oregon Highway 22 and at about 4:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 8, flagged a car going by. She caught the driver’s attention with her flashlight.

Lykov said Thursday that he gave her a ride in the trunk of his Nissan 240SX, an older sports car he bought five years ago as a hobby car, and left her in care of police in Mehama.

Sullivan didn’t catch his name, but she wanted to thank her savior.

After reading the Salem Reporter story, Lykov was pretty sure it was him in the story and looked up Sullivan on Facebook.

The pair were able to connect, and Sullivan thanked him for picking her up that night. Another motorist had earlier passed her, leaving her alone on the dark highway.

Lykov said he started his Labor Day evening with a drive up to Gates around 7 p.m. The sky was shades of red and yellow and he wanted to take a look and get some photos.

He drove back to his home in Lyons that evening and around 11 p.m. he could hear fire trucks wailing outside his house.

Lykov, who said he is a curious person by nature, decided to drive to Gates where fire trucks from every town in the area were working to extinguish flames that were cropping up in Gates and Mill City as winds pushed embers through the air.

“I decided to drive up to Niagara,” he said.

He snapped pictures of the glowing hillsides above Detroit and came across a car crushed by a fallen tree on Highway 22.

The hillsides glowing red during the Beachie Creek Fire on Sept. 8. (Courtesy/ Kirill Lykov)

Lykov heard a loud cracking sound of a tree branch breaking and decided it was time to turn back to Lyons.

He pushed some branches out of the way with his car and swerved to avoid hitting things on the 16-mile drive home.

When he got back to Lyons, he packed up clothes, his colored pencil artwork and collection of small cars that he purchased from different countries into the passenger side of his small car.

He got an evacuation notice on his phone earlier in the night, but decided to “go see what’s going on there again” and drove 12 miles to Gates. 

Fires were burning in Mill City and as he drove into Gates “buildings were burning left and right.”

Buildings burning during the Beachie Creek Fire on Sept. 8. (Courtesy/ Kirill Lykov)

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” he said.

That’s when he came across Sullivan. She was waving her phone flashlight.

Looking at his passenger seat filled to the brim, Lykov had an idea.

“Let me pop the trunk. I’ll go really slow,” he said. “Just hold on and we’ll try to get through there.”

Sullivan settled in on top of the boxes there, her feet dangling over the bumper. She held on with both hands, intending to get off in Mill City. 

He drove 25 mph, passing trees burning along the highway and rocks sliding from the hillsides.

Mill City was on fire, so he drove Sullivan to Mehama and left her at a police blockade.

Then, he turned around again to go to Mill City once more.

He took more pictures and came across a man in Mill City, offering him a ride.

“Can I do anything for you?” Lykov asked.

The man declined, saying that was everything he had.

Lykov drove back to Lyons for a final time and at 7 a.m. firefighters went door-to-door saying there was a mandatory evacuation and he had to leave. He evacuated to his sister’s house in Salem.

Lykov and Sullivan have discussed getting coffee together but haven’t made concrete plans.

“I always want to try and help people. This was so crazy I didn’t think I’d be helping anyone because I’m not a firefighter,” he said. 

Kirril Lykov poses in front of his car where Bonnie Sullivan hung on while escaping the Beachie Creek Fire. (Saphara Harrell/Salem Reporter)

News tip? Contact reporter Saphara Harrell by email at [email protected].

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