Residents watch, worry

Residents on the flanks of Roxy Ann spent the last day of summer watching anxiously as firefighters battled a wind-fueled blaze that climbed perilously close to their homes.

Near where the fire started Monday afternoon on the south flank, residents along Devonshire Place were asked to evacuate at 5:15 p.m.

"We haven't directly seen the flames, but we could sense it was getting closer," said Leanne Wood, just before the command to evacuate came. "As long as the flag in the backyard is moving north we're OK. It's been kind of an unnerving day; everybody was on their roofs watching and keeping an eye on things."

She said emergency service personnel told residents to be ready to go around 4 p.m. "We all have our cars loaded up and ready to go," Wood said.

University of Oregon student Julianne Stevens was at her boyfriend's home on Manzanita Heights Drive in Roxy Ann Heights as smoke first started appearing from the south.

"At first, everything was fine. We were primarily seeing white smoke," Stevens said. "Then the smoke started getting dark. Nobody panicked, we just started spraying things down. Then within the last hour (about 3:45 p.m.) it started getting really dark and hot. We started spraying down the roof with hoses and put the four dogs inside; the smoke was getting really thick."

Stevens said there were about 11 people present when Dewey Wilson, the homeowner, decided it was time to gather up family pictures. "We've experienced lightning storms and all these different kinds of experiences up here, but this is so different," Stevens said.

She said flames were within 150 yards and closing in on neighbor Robert Jensen's house about 100 yards downhill.

"When the wind came up it was the height of panic and scary and blowing right at us," Stevens said. "When Mr. Wilson said 'Grab the family photos,' I knew this is real. Everyone pulled together. It's nice to see everyone pulling together for the same cause to save houses; we know what it means to those people."

She said she passed emergency vehicles on the way down the hill, but wasn't paying much attention to what residents were doing.

"To be honest, we weren't paying attention," Stevens said. "It was the most panicking, adrenaline-pumping situation I've ever been in."

As smoke billowed over the ridge, Dry Creek Road resident Randy Struckmeier fired up three Rainbird sprinklers on his acre-plus parcel.

"We've got all our valuables ready to go — we could be out of here in five minutes," he said, noting the fire was three to four miles distant just before 5 p.m. Monday.

But an hour later the fire was half that distance away from their home, he reported.

"We're watching it inch closer," he said. "The police have been by, told us we should be ready to leave. We've moved the car up and filled it with our prize possessions."

Before the police arrived, he and his wife, Alice, had gathered their important documents and family photographs — all their children are away at college — and prepared for the worst.

"In addition to the sprinklers, we have a 10,000-gallon pool we could pump out of if we need it," he said, adding that a neighbor has a large holding tank that can be used if harm comes their way.

The neighbors are working together, he said, although adding it has been roughly a dozen years since the area was threatened by a wildfire.

"We'll be ready if it comes," he said.

Reach Greg Stiles at 776-4463 or Reach Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or

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