Narrow escape, lifesaving phone call: Oregon woman recalls fire

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MARION COUNTY, Ore. (KOIN) — With the town of Gates still under Level 3 evacuation orders, most residents haven’t been able to get a look at what’s left.

Rebecca Knakal said she knows her home is gone because a neighbor was able to get back and take a video. But Rebecca and her husband Dick came close to losing much more.

Rebecca said they almost waited too long to leave, thinking the Beachie Creek Fire wasn’t as close to their home as it was. Labor Day started out like any other day in Gates but by nightfall, high winds had knocked out power. The Knakals had a generator and the fire was across the river so they weren’t too worried.

She said they didn’t receive a warning or evacuation notice and only decided to leave early Tuesday morning after a friend called to say they could see flames approaching.

With such little time to get out alive, Rebecca and Dick were only able to pack a few things. They were still waiting Thursday for permission to go back and see the extent of the damage.

“I can’t imagine walking through the rubble and trying to imagine, ‘Okay, am I at the bedroom yet? Do I dig right here?’” Rebecca mused. “But yeah, the things that hurt your heart is the gifts from people over the years.”

The Knakals lost their home but they still have their lives — and may also be responsible for saving the lives of their neighbors. Rebecca told KOIN 6 News that as they were driving through flames and debris, they noticed a neighboring home hadn’t evacuated. Rebecca called and woke them up — they’d had no idea of the danger.

“She says you might have saved our lives because we were sound asleep and when we woke up we saw the glow of the fire across the river,” Rebecca recalled.

Despite losing everything, Rebecca said they’re doing okay and are thankful they all made it out safely.

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