LYONS, Ore. — An Oregon man says he used a green plastic chair as a shield from a huge, deadly wildfire as he sheltered from the flames on a rock in the middle of a river.
“Everything around me was on fire,” Don Myron, 56, told the Statesman Journal newspaper. “That chair helped save my butt.”
Myron had been caught last week in the Beachie Creek Fire in Little North Canyon, one of the areas most impacted by massive blazes that burned across the state. Four of the eight confirmed wildfire deaths in Oregon are from the area east of the state capital of Salem.
Myron said he was trapped in the canyon by downed trees and flames roaring on strong winds and survived by finding a rock in the middle of the Little North Santiam River where he could stay until the worst passed.
“If there’s anybody who can survive that situation, it’s my dad,” said Chris Myron, Don’s son. “He’s smart, can think on his feet and is very resourceful.”
Labor Day Weekend was normal, Don Myron said. His son Chris and his girlfriend visited and “we just had a good time on the river,” Myron said. “They left that afternoon. It was blue skies and no wind. Things changed in a hurry.”
The sheriff’s office sent crews out that afternoon to suggest residents evacuate that afternoon. Even so, most figured it was precautionary.
Myron spent the next few hours watering everything he could around his house and property.
“I had my last conversation with my oldest son around 8:45 p.m. I still felt OK at that point, although there was some smoke.”
The first branch landed on his roof at about 9:15 p.m. Myron went outside, looked up, and saw that the sky had turned orange.
“I ran to the end of the driveway, looked down the canyon and both sides of the river were engulfed in flames,” he told the newspaper.
He tried to drive to safety but was stopped by a large log in the road. He eventually made it into the river, up to his waist in water. He headed downstream, to a place the river widened, and came across three plastic chairs on the side of the river. He grabbed one.
Wind speeds, which have been estimated at 70 mph (113 kph) or higher, funneled down the canyon.
“When the wind really kicked up, I picked up the chair and held it in front of me,” he said. “That chair was incredible. It helped a lot.”
Around 2 p.m. the next day emergency vehicles and big rigs reached the area.
“Let me tell you, that was an awesome sight,” he said. “Thank God I ended up in a wide spot of the river and away from the banks.”