Central Oregon

Last Marks Creek evacuation notices lifted

Hwy. 26 open again; some residents had left - others stayed

Evacuees prepare to head back

MITCHELL, Ore. - The Waterman Complex Fire closed Highway 26 East of Prineville to Mitchell for several days, but Tuesday it's now open again for residents, but in limited fashion.

One lane re-opened with a pilot car after earlier evacuations -- and later in the day,. two lanes, at 35 mph, with motorists warned not to stop int he fire zone.

And Wednesday morning came word the week-old Marks Creek evacuation notice was lifted.

The recent evacuees were ready to go back home, and travel more easily.

But not everyone left when the fire was blazing and threatening their homes.

"Didn't really feel threatened, even though the fire was close," Eldon Williamson said.

The fire was about 300 yards away from Williamson's home in the West Branch area of Wheeler County, but he decided to stay.

Another family that evacuated said the fire was about 100 yards away from their home.

"We kind of saw the line that was burning from across the hill," Coy Mathiasen said.

Williamson said he was second-guessing himself during the fire, but ultimately had his bags packed, just in case it got too close.

"Three o'clock in the morning, I was beginning to wonder if we shouldn't leave, and we were ready to leave," Williamson recalled. "By eight o'clock in the morning, the fire had backed off and we felt safe."

The community of Mitchell also has rallied around the firefighters and everyone affected by the fire.

"Nobody will accept anything in return," Lori Mathiasen said. "They just say, 'That's what we're here for, for each other, and it's hard for us, because we're people that usually give to everyone else."

"They're really concerned with our well-being while also fighting the fire which was really touching," Russell Mathiasen said. "It's a small community up there of incident management team that work together all the time, but they do care."

Regardless whether they left or not, citizens appreciate the ability to travel to and from town again.

"We haven't been any place since the fire started so. Tomorrow probably we'll go to town," Williamson said.

At last report, the fire is over 12,000 acres and 75 percent contained. For more information on this fire and others around Oregon, visit http://inciweb.nwcg.gov/state/38/.

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