Park City man tells of harrowing escape from Oregon wildfire that destroyed family cabin
The Sletten family since the 1960s has had a cabin in Oregon, a place where the generations could gather in the rural Pacific Northwest.
The parents of Park City resident Mark Sletten purchased the cabin, between Bend and Eugene and on the McKenzie River, 54 years ago. The Sletten family spent extensive time over the years at the cabin and surrounding lands.
Sletten was there for Labor Day weekend. The family went to bed on Monday. They were sound asleep, Sletten recalled in an interview on Thursday. The people who live there on a full-time basis received text messages of imminent danger, but the Slettens did not as they slept.
At about 1:30 a.m., a friend of the Slettens who lives there called with a warning. A large wildfire was approaching, and the blaze was nearing the cabin. The Sletten family had to rush out. They quickly got into a vehicle and started to drive away from the approaching fire. They were surrounded by smoke and could see little through the windows. It was as if they were in San Francisco on an especially foggy day, he said.
“It was scary. I’ve never been there before. You see it on TV,” said Sletten, who is a longtime Parkite who lives in Park Meadows, a member of the Park City Planning Commission and a real estate agent.
Sletten’s wife was in the vehicle with him, watching for the flames as they drove. They did not see any, but there was a long line of cars, moving at perhaps 25 mph, also attempting to leave the fire zone, Sletten said.
The Holiday Farm fire eventually charred more than 173,000 acres. Nearly all the perimeter had been contained by the middle of the week. Emergency officials in the middle of the week estimated a containment date of Oct. 29.
The fire destroyed the Sletten family cabin. When he was able to return, Sletten found the cabin had been burned to the ground. Only the chimney was left standing, he said. The chimney, though, was badly damaged and will need to be demolished.
“It’s like losing a family member.” Sletten said, describing the cabin as being a part of his life as well as the lives of his children and saying there were numerous mementos displayed inside. “So many memories. Every inch of it was covered on the walls.”
Sletten said the family plans to rebuild at the same location. Nothing from the cabin that was there is salvageable, he said. Between 12 and 18 trees, some estimated to be as old as 250 years, will need to be brought down after the roots were burned.
Sletten this week announced he would resign from the Planning Commission post as a result of the destruction in Oregon. He said in an interview he will lack the time for the Planning Commission duties as the family readies to rebuild the cabin. He said he intends to remain on the Planning Commission until a successor is named. It is his second stint as a member of the Planning Commission, a body that is seen as ranking second in influence only to the Park City Council of City Hall’s boards and commissions.
The timeline for a successor to be selected is not known. The Planning Commission is notably engaged in discussions about a proposal for a major development at Park City Mountain Resort. The timing for what would be one of the Planning Commission’s most notable votes in recent years is unclear, meaning it is difficult to forecast whether the Planning Commission will be ready to cast a vote before Sletten’s departure.
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