July Maus was driving home from work around 4:20 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 12, when she noticed smoke rising roughly 500 yards below her family’s home on in Mosier.
“I got there and screamed at everybody to get into the car,” said Maus, who lived on Carroll Road with her brother, his wife, her parents, her 88-year-old grandmother, and the family’s seven dogs. Family members were able to collect their birth certificates and the dogs, and “that was all we had time for,” said Maus. “We were out of there in under four minutes.”
At 4:28 p.m., 911 received the first reports of a fire in Mosier, and local fire departments, as well as the Wasco County Sheriff’s Office, were dispatched.
In less than 24-hours, the fire had burned nearly 800 acres, destroyed two structures, endangered nearly 300 more, and caused roughly 900 people to be evacuated.
As of 9 a.m. on Aug. 17 (latest update as of press time), the Incident Management Team calculated the fire to be 985 acres in size and 65 percent contained. A reported 662 structures remain in danger, and crews have confirmed that a total 36 structures have been destroyed, and one structure has been damaged.
Maus and her family safely evacuated to a friend’s house, but they went back up to see their property on Aug. 13. “We just needed to see it for ourselves,” said Maus. Her brother lost his house and pretty much everything was destroyed, she said. A friend set up a GoFundMe for the family (www.gofundme.com/f/maus-family-support?utm_source=instagram&utm_campaign=p_cf+share-flow-1&utm_medium=social) and they’re working out what to do next.
“We just have an amazing support system,”said Maus. “We’ve just been really well taken care of by our friends and our congregation … so it’s been really encouraging.”
The Wasco County Sheriff’s Office first issued evacuation notices for the surrounding area on Aug. 12 and has updated the notices several times within the last week as crews got a better understanding of the fire spread (see graphic, page 3, for the current evacuation map).
While officials have confirmed that the fire is not expected to grow and that firefighters will be in the area to monitor at least through August (see associated story, page 3), evacuation orders remained unchanged on Monday.
“The main priority is safety,” said Wasco County Sheriff Lane Magill in an official Q&A on Sunday, Aug. 16. “…Since fires are so unpredictable, we really want to avoid predicting and changing evacuation levels multiple times. Please note, as the sheriff, it is important to me to make sure everyone gets back to their homes as early as possible.”
Over the weekend, crews achieved the 200-foot mop-up marker from the containment line to the interior of the fire, and their goal Monday was to reach the 300-foot mop-up marker.
The Oregon State Fire Marshal and other remaining task forces demobilized on Monday and delegated structure responsibilities to local fire authorities. The Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) continues to manage fire response.
For the most up-to-date information on the Mosier Creek Fire, evacuation notices and fire response, visit www.facebook.com/mosiercreekfire2020.