Smoke on Commercial Street Monday evening as wildfires burned in east Salem. (Ron Cooper/Special to Salem Reporter)

The Marion County Board of Commissioners declared a state of emergency Tuesday as wildfires ripped through the eastern part of the county.

“The fire tore down the Santiam Canyon last night. Our deputies were working all night trying to evacuate people,” said Marion County Commissioner Colm Willis.

The emergency declaration will allow Marion County to request additional resources from the state.

He said a number of buildings have been lost and he’s concerned about people who refused to evacuate who may have been trapped in the fire.

“We’ve got a very serious situation,” Willis said.

When reached Tuesday, Willis said he was going door-to-door in Scotts Mills to tell residents to evacuate.

Just after midnight, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office notified residents in the Santiam Canyon to leave immediately.

Highway 22 eastbound was closed from Stayton to Santiam Junction for residents from the communities of Mehama to Detroit to evacuate.

An hour later, the evacuation notice was expanded to Idanha, which is east of Detroit.

Around 3 a.m. Marion County Emergency Management coordinated with the American Red Cross to open an evacuation staging area at the Oregon State Fairgrounds.

At 4:25 a.m. the evacuation notice was again expanded to include the area west of Mehama to Cascade Highway and north to Highway 214. The cities of Stayton and Sublimity were later put on alert to be ready to evacuate as the Beachie Creek Fire that started in the Opal Creek Wilderness continued to burn out of control

Kathy Ursprung, Salem city spokeswoman, said Salem’s drinking water hasn’t been impacted yet, but the city will advise residents immediately if that changes.

The state Department of Environmental Quality issued a smoke advisory for the Willamette Valley through at least Tuesday afternoon. 

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Spreading wildfire prompts evacuation of Santiam Canyon communities

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