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Family who lost everything to Bootleg Fire setting out to keep hot spots from flaring up

As of Wednesday afternoon, it had burned 394,407 acres, putting it in fourth place for the largest wildfires to ever burn in Oregon.

Maggie Vespa

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Published: 7/21/2021 1:56:33 PM
Updated: 9:25 AM PDT July 26, 2021

Charred remnants of family heirlooms and appliances littered the front lawn of Tim and Dee McCarley's destroyed home. The McCarleys and Dee’s son, David Martin, climbed into two pickup trucks Tuesday evening and began cruising around their property near Bly, Ore.

One of the trucks was outfitted with a generator, water tank and a hose. Hunting for hot spots has become the family’s daily ritual. They come armed with their own equipment.

“This is what we do,” said Tim McCarley, as he sprayed down the steaming pile of dirt and embers. “We've put out 30 or 40 already.”  

The family doesn’t feel like they have a choice. The historically large Bootleg Fire swept through their property, forcing them to flee the fast-moving flames almost two weeks ago.

“If we didn't get out when we did, we all would have been dead,” Martin said.

But the fire has since moved on from their property. Last week, winds pushed the flames northeast, toward less populated areas. Firefighters, overwhelmed by the fire’s size, were forced to go with it. That reality left families like the McCarleys on their own to put out hot spots and sift through the rubble.

“There’s another lost vehicle there,” Tim McCarley said, pointing around his property. “Two lost vehicles back there.”

“I had a 35-year-old oak table set. I know it's stuff, but it was my stuff. You know?” Dee McCarley said, as her eyes teared up. “Stuff that I valued. Nobody else.”

Their belongings, stored in trailers outside their home, were all destroyed. So was Martin’s house, which sat elsewhere on the property. But the McCarley’s dream home, which they were still building when the fire hit, was untouched.

“I looked over there and went 'Oh ok, that's all gone'. Then I looked at the house and just dropped to my knees and just went ‘Thank the Lord, we have a home,’” Dee McCarley said.

To donate to the McCarley family, click here.

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