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Story by Associated Press - Story Source
Published on Friday June 4, 2021 - 12:07 AM
 
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OTIS, Ore. (AP) — Wildfire smoke was thick when Tye and Melynda Small went to bed on Labor Day, but they weren't too concerned. After all, they live in a part of Oregon where ferns grow from tree trunks and rainfall averages more than six feet (1.8 meters) a year.

But just after midnight, a neighbor awakened them as towering flames, pushed by gusting winds, bore down. The Smalls and their four children fled, leaving behind 26 pet chickens, two goldfish and a duck named Gerard as wind whipped the blaze into a fiery tornado and trees exploded around them.

When it was over, they were left homeless by a peril they had never imagined. Only two houses on their street in Otis survived a fire they expected to be tamped out long before it reached their door less than six miles (9.6 kilometers) from the Pacific.

"Nobody ever thought that on the Oregon coast we would have a fire like this. Here ... it rains. It rains three-quarters of the year," Melynda Small said. "It was one of the scariest things I've ever gone through."

The fire that leveled the rural community of 3,500 people was part of an Oregon wildfire season last fall that destroyed more than 4,000 homes, killed nine people and raged through 1.1 million acres (445,154 hectares). Almost all the damage occurred over a hellish 72 hours that stretched firefighters to their breaking point...