Sep 16, 2020

Oregon Fires and Hope for Better Times Ahead

(Posting on my cell phone with a full house of families - adults, young children dogs, cats and even extra chickens.)

Evacuations from family homes in Mehama, Lyons, Gates, and Mill City Oregon was ordered with many families leaving with only the clothes they were wearing. 
Photos above taken by my son on his cell phone after the immediate evacuatoon when closest fires were reported as 1/2 a mile away 
They had looked for areas of house and brush fires and checked inside the pitch dark, smoke filled home of my daughter, son-in-law.

My son-in-law shown here on roof of their house in Mehama,  Oregon hosing it down with hopes of a wet roof and surrounds might protect the house. Unfortunately, the city of Lyons has shut off all water supplies thinking they needed to save it for firefighters.Families  evacuated with few clothes, phones, kids, dog and cat. 

One day emergency phone alert was "prepare for poor air quality from wildfires way over mountains. Then next day alert said Level 3: Get out now!!!"

They did. 

All of our family plus friends plus all their pets or farm animals and/or chickens now safe at our house in Salem. Fire got as close as 1/4 of a mile to their homes. 

Photos from days later when my son and son-in-law had sheriff's permission to try to get in for limited window of time to try save farm animals plus they hosed down roof by truck headlights as shown above and flashlights inside the dark house to grab their important paperwork or personal needs as quickly and safely as possible.

Poor phone quality (always my only internet) but worse signal now every where due to extreme air quality from 37 Oregon Wildfires. Worst fires right now in the world! Frightenly intense and so challenging for the firefighters.

30/35 members of our family and many more or my husband's childhood through high school friends evacuated to Salem and other towns  Multiple familes  with dogs cats chickens with us since Monday of last week.

All doing fine. Our own air is yellow to yellow orange,  incredibly smoky and thick.  Creates headaches, swollen or burning eyes, coughing and runny nose for the canary in the mine--me!

Most of Lyons/Mehama did surive but many lost homes. People up the North Fork River Road/ slept through 1 a.m. message waking up to flames due to their own self silenced phones Some simply did not have enough time to get out no matter what. 

Statistically this fire moved 15 x faster than the world's fastest runner. If cars were blocked by fallen trees on only road no one could get out unless they were able to run to another car leaving farther down. 

Shown above:

Paul Allen Environmental Learning Center
Bilyeu Homes Inc  
Larry and Blake Bilyeu 

Photo 2007 by Michele Savikko Bilyeu before the fire and during its construction. 

Many are missing from the North Fork of the Santiam River areas,, including one of past Governor's Vic Atiyeh's nephew - the founder and primary $undraiser who created an amazing community around Opal Creek and Jawbone Flats now with many hard sad stories. 

Most likeky burned to the ground. Bilyeu Homes our 2 person super environmentally conscious Dad and Son home office/home based business built the Paul Allen Science Center in the Opal Creek Ancient Forest area. 

Known affectionately as the Commissary when we were building it, it served as a hub of learning and activites for all. 

Our hearts mourn the loss of so much beauty that was a big part of our family's lives for decade's. My son still in contact with the people who lived and cared and taught classes there over time. Our family and friends building and working on many buildings there


Michele Bilyeu Creates *With Heart and Hands*: 

Opal Creek Ancient Forest Center 

Local online quilting business owner Bonnie Sullivan lost her beautiful home on the banks of the North Fork River. All gone.

She escaped the raging fire by flagging a car whose driver had to put her in the open trunk of a car that fully packed with her legs hanging out. Her husband was safe and away with work in Australia. But can you even imagine him learning of this half a world away? Bonnie, her sister. and mother are all from Salem and members of our. Mid-Valley Quilt Guild.  She wrote on Facebook thar she is fine and that she is lucky to have insurance.  Still it was built alongside what i assume must have been the family's original cabin. Sad to know that is gone as well. Oh the losses and the stories are heart breaking but the resilience of the human spirit is mighty.

SPECIAL REPORT: A night in hell - Santiam Canyon's ordeal | Salem Reporter | News about Salem – In-depth, Accurate, Trusted

Larry grew up living in both Lyons and Mehama and spent summers picking strawberries to earn money then swimming in the beautiful waters of tbe North Fork River every day he could!

Bilyeu Homes Inc. built a custom home for the Patterson family on an awesome site on the North Fork 16 years ago. Here are before and after photos courtesy of the home owners.

Although Larry still works along sidevof him our son Blake now runs our company and he heard almost immediately from them after the tragic loss of a beloved home filled with beautiful and deeply special memories. 

 They asked: "We lost everything. Can you help?" 

It was their home they saved for and finally built with coveted river front views and a great swimming area.

Now their house, antique furniture and a classic car collection all torched by heat and flames from this unimaginable massive fire.

Our hearts and prayers go out to all of these many, many families for all of their losses 

We still have the original vellums my husband rough drafted their custom plan on which can be used for new blueprints in the years ahead. Or a new plan if they so desire.  

We build very few houses a year but they are true homes and not just houses. We mourn the loss of this house and their grief and tragic loss. One can only imagine all of the grief and pain of these losses.

My own family home burned to the ground in Alaska in 1970. I was away at college at Oregon State learning by a hallway dorm phone at Oregon State University that my beloved cat died waking my brother up and using his crutches (he spent a year and a half in a body cast after a terrible accident ftom a dry docked boat falling on him as he worked underneath it) 

He woke up our parents  my mom running to neighbors to call fire department and my dad carrying my 3
unconscious brothers out a 2nd story window half throwing them down to our garage roof below.

Of course we said "yes" to our rebuilding our own home (my dad designed and built it with volunteer help) all those decades ago. We all need to have hope and a promise of renewal no matter how bad things are! Things can be replaced.  Lives cannot.

On top of everything else my almost 20 year old Kermit (she not a he) died a few crazy weeks ago. A long life still filled with health challenges, she was held, told stories to, and loved during her sweet passing naturally at home. 

Finally kissing her goodnight I woke at to a loud plaintive call for me. Gone and so soft and warm yet i told her how much she was loved and to follow the light over the rainbow bridge to my beloved Keira, her litter mate. 


If you're in our condition with any similar challenges and need love, hope and cheer i found this you tube little girl and her dad.  I cry with heart touched tears.

So incredibly sweet, well done and amazing little girl and her dad 🦄😊🦄

5 year old Claire Ryann Crosby sings "Tomorrow" from musical "Annie"

And with her dad Dave 
Claire Ryann Crosby sing "A Whole New World"

Michele Bilyeu Creates With Heart and Hands as she shares her imaginative, magical, and healing journey from Alaska to Oregon. Creating, designing, sewing, quilting, and wildcrafting... from my heart and with my hands.

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