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Blue River families look toward the future

"It was terrifying it was the scariest thing that I’ve ever had happen to me in my entire life," Blue River resident Jennifer Zirkle said.

Posted: Sep 9, 2020 7:12 PM

BLUE RIVER, Ore. -- While many Blue River families are trying to make sense of losing their homes in a matter of minutes others are stepping up to help the community when they need it the most. 

Many families who have been displaced by the Holiday Farm Fire told KEZI 9 News that even though they're devastated to see what this fire has done to the small town many of them have grown up in, they are just thankful to be alive tonight. 

"It was terrifying, it was the scariest thing that I’ve ever had happen to me in my entire life," Blue River resident Jennifer Zirkle said.

Everything was fine one minute and they were given a Level 3 evacuation order the next.

"It was immediate. Evacuation go now. Everyone was getting in their cars and leaving and now our town is gone there is nothing there,” Zirkle said.

While she is thankful to be alive, she feels for those who lost everything. 

"Devastated for everybody else who has lost everything, there’s generations of people who have lived there in family homes that are just gone," Zirkle said.

Their biggest advice for anyone who is remotely near the fires breaking out is to prepare ahead.

"If you have the ability for a Level 1, Level 2, start getting things out of there ASAP because if it goes to a Level 3, you're not going to have the time to do that," Zirkle said.

She said she's worried for her community, especially since most of them didn't get other evacuation orders to prepare.

"You struggle in a smaller community and rural areas and for people who have lost everything, I think it’s going to be a very hard thing for people to recover from," Zirkle said.

However she believes everyone should have the same goal.

"I think it’s important that the community come together and help in any way they can," Zirkle said.

The Gilliam family is doing just that.

"We want to try and protect each other and show some love to each other during this time of need," Blue River resident Christopher Gilliam said.

Christopher’s family owns a restaurant called Souper Bowls in Eugene. They’re offering free food to anyone who has been displaced from the Holiday Farm Fire.

His family lives in Blue River and has been displaced from the fire. He said they have been living in a motel ever since the fire broke out Monday night. As of Wednesday night, they still don't know if their house is standing.

Nonetheless they decided to step up and help others in the community. 

"It’s taken a little bit of work and elbow grease and asking for help from the community but we're quite willing to do the work,” Gilliam said.

He said his restaurant lost 50% of their business due to the pandemic but that's not stopping his family from giving back.

"We have a kitchen, we have a staff, we have food -- I just want to feed anyone who is hungry," Blue River resident Trang Lee said.

She said being able to help the people they've grown up with in Blue River is fulfilling.

"All of my friends live there I’ve known them my whole life so it is difficult to see the community hurt that way," Elana Gilliam said.

They hope what they're doing inspires others to help out too.

"One day you can have it all and one day you can have nothing at all and its really that simple. I think small acts of kindness and just sharing and giving what you can really makes a difference," Elana said.

They encourage anyone who needs the extra boost to show up and get a free meal. They told KEZI 9 News they will be offering them until they're no longer needed. 

To help offset the cost of the food you are asked to make a donation if you are able to. If not, just show up and grab a fresh hot meal for free. 

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