DETROIT, Oregon — The caravan lined up Sunday morning in Gates. Promptly at 9 a.m. the long line of vehicles carrying people connected to Detroit, Oregon went through the roadblock, escorted by Marion County sheriff's deputies heading east.
All along the way you could see the trees burned up on both sides of Highway 22. And homes lost, too, while others survived.
And then the caravan arrived in Detroit: a city that is not what it used to be. Some of the landmarks that many travelers and visitors are familiar with are simply gone.
Before, Cedars Restaurant greeted you on the west side of town. Now its iconic sign is the only thing rising over the rubble. City Hall was leveled by fire. So was the fire station. Only a burned-out fire engine is left, parked on the street.
And homes are lost on the next street over. Alma Barajas and her husband are looking over what's left of their second home, a place the Salem couple visited a lot before more recently making it a rental.
“Today's the first chance we had to come out here and it's very-- what an amazing sight I think, just the drive up here, and it's a pretty sad situation for everyone right now,” said Barajas.
The couple have fond memories of summers in Detroit. “Everybody just comes out here and has a wonderful time; right now the quietness—there's an atmosphere of silence. I think everyone is just trying to get back into the swing of things.”
Dan and Kristy Mcmorlan are back to assess their truck and camper. There's nothing to save. The couple was returning to Salem from central Oregon, when they hit a rock on the road as the fire raged east of Idanha. They made it to Detroit, after changing a tire, and evacuated with others from there.
“Changing a tire in a firestorm, anything after that was a piece of cake, there was smoke you couldn't see or breathe,” said Kristy.
Their son had modified the Ford Ranger, to make it very special.
“It's very hard, it's very hard and I know it's just stuff and it can be replaced, but it's sentimental value,” said Kristy.
Mayor Jim Trett of Detroit said while it's awful to see all the damage and destruction, there is plenty of life still here that you can see it in the green trees that did not succumb to fire.
“So that gives us hope and so we've gone from devastation to we're gonna rebuild it. We've had tremendous help from volunteers calling and emailing saying let us know what you need and when you need it” said Trett.
“We have our moments where it just hits you over the head and you cry a little bit but then you start thinking about the things that are positive here.”