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Blue River Homeowner On Holiday Farm Fire's Destruction, And Keeping Strong

Andy Nelson
Register Guard/pool

The Holiday Farm Fire has consumed over 170,000 acres, and destroyed more than 500 structures.  Some residents who fled last week have recently been able to return to check on their homes.  In the cause of Tim Laue, a former Eugene City Councilor and now Blue River resident, the experience was devastating: the home he and his wife shared, along with a guest cottage, were burned to the foundations.

KLCC’s Brian Bull talked to Laue about when he and his wife evacuated late Labor Day night.

Laue:  It was surreal, let me put it that way.  Driving down that highway, and particularly on the south side it was like looking into a blast furnace.  It was working that hot and it was moving incredibly fast. It was so hot that people’s tires were melting.  A couple of people I know had to drive down on rims to get to Vida, at about 10 miles per hour. 

Credit Inciweb
Holiday Farm Fire, September 8, 2020.

People have lost…they’ve lost their homes, they’ve lost their possessions in their homes. We’ve been working to get behavioral health counseling for people remotely, we’ve been trying to put together neighborhood sessions with a behavioral health counsel so people that were within 3-4 houses of one another, can share their experience to discharge or share some emotion as well. Because there’s a lot of people in a great deal of pain all through the valley.

Blue River is essentially not there anymore. Every building in Blue River, burned to the ground. There are a lot of burned out vehicles, all the way up and all the way down. Uhm, people are distressed. People are bereft.  It’s really hard to lose your home. I can tell you that from personal experience. It’s even harder to lose your home when you don’t have the resources to recover quickly.  Or even to shelter quickly. 

It’s also very hard to look what happened to the valley. Many places, the soil has been sterilized. That fire was so hot and fast moving, that it basically took all the life out of different spots in the valley.  And there will be thousands and thousands of trees that have to come down, because they will become danger trees.

Credit Andy Nelson / Register Guard/pool
Register Guard/pool
Burned out vehicles in Blue River, Oregon.

So that’s very hard as well, but I have great faith in nature’s way of recovering. It just won’t happen very quickly. I would say that local agencies EWEB, the Forest Service, are working immediately to try and prevent what’s coming in terms of landslides and deadfall.

Bull:  How are you holding up, Tim?

Laue:  It’s hard but we’re holding up well, because…I’m holding up well because I have something to focus on.  My wife and I went up and spent some time at the house and the cottage.  It’s an emotionally hard thing to do. Because you’ve lost in my case, 50 years of your life. Not so much in the material things, but in….ahm…my piano and the art we had, and the things that you keep to remember family, or to celebrate your children. Those are all gone. I mean, they’re not there anymore.

And you kinda regret that you didn’t take them all but you couldn’t because you really had very little time.  You took what you can that was important, your birth certificates and other things. But my neighbors on both sides had the same circumstance. I felt bad for them, because their houses are down to 2 feet off the ground as well. Twisted metal. It was such a beautiful place, and it’ll be a beautiful place again. But that place fed my soul.  We had a beautiful home, but as we told everybody, the home was an afterthought compared to where we lived on the river and what we saw.

Credit Brian Bull / KLCC
Tim Laue, who lost two structures in the Holiday Farm Fire of 2020.

BB:  What keeps you strong and going on in this time, Tim?

Laue:  The people. And the river. The McKenzie. So it’s a very small community and it’s 60 miles long, so you know your neighbors. You see their suffering, and you want to try to alleviate that. You see the valley and the McKenzie itself. And you still take pleasure in that, and you focus on serving others. That’s what keeps me going, is trying to help people, help the valley, help the McKenzie, to move past this.

BB: Tim Laue, thank you for your time and I’m sorry for your loss.

Laue:  Thank you Brian.

Copyright 2020, KLCC.

Brian Bull is an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Oregon, and remains a contributor to the KLCC news department. He began working with KLCC in June 2016.   In his 27+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (22 regional),  the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from  the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.
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