“We were starting to see flames coming in pretty close to us and the winds were blowing it just right toward us," Harris told FOX 12 Oregon of Portland about the Santiam Fire near Detroit, Ore. “A couple of our firefighters were calling their families to say they loved them – it kind of got to that point. It was scary.”
By Wednesday afternoon the Marion County sheriff reported at least two people had died in the fire, which has burned nearly 160,000 acres east of Salem. A 12-year-old boy, his grandmother and their dog were found by rescuers in their car not far from their home in Lyons. They had been trying to escape, KATU-TV in Portland reported.
Harris said although they called in the National Guard for a helicopter rescue it was prevented by unsafe conditions, leaving the stranded to wait as the fire surrounded them on all sides.
“We were wide awake, watching the fire, we had fire glow 365 degrees around us," she told the station. “I took solace that my family was already evacuated.”
Harris said there were six kids under 6 years old within the group and some of them weren’t wearing shoes since they had been at the lake, "so we were able to donate a couple pairs of socks to them to keep them warm.”
She told the station that firefighters eventually found a path out via forest service roads, but navigating the fiery terrain was equally harrowing.
“We were actually driving through fire a little bit there. We could feel the heat coming into our vehicles,” she said.
The 30-car convoy slowly traversed the forest roads until they arrived at Government Camp, Ore., at the base of Mount Hood.
By Wednesday night, the fire had burned Detroit's City Hall to the ground as well as the local fire station, Idanha-Detroit Rural Fire Protection District said, according to FOX 12.