Ken Cartwright, GM of KYAC 94.9FM, shares his experience in Santiam Canyon
In this two-part video series Ken Cartwright—General Manager/Program Director at KYAC 94.9 FM—narrates his horrendous experience during the Santiam Canyon fire and the many steps he as his wife are taking to rebuild their life together in Gates, Oregon.
During the evening of September 8, 2020, Ken and his wife heard a chorus of sirens, bells and loud vehicles. Ken describes a large parade of vehicles coming to his neighborhood from Linn County, and making announcements to evacuate. Ken recalls the color of the sky as he looked through the Canyon—the sky was bright red and he knew it was time to go.
Being an adept radio broadcaster in his community, Ken drove quickly to the KYAC studio. The power was out, so he jumped the station with his truck and got on the air and started to make emergency announcements to listeners in the Gates Area. Between broadcast breaks, Ken was calling the Sheriffs of Linn and Marion Counties, Oregon State Police, and Marion County Emergency Management, to get more information for listeners. Officials directed Ken to tell everyone to go to State Fairgrounds, which was a designated evacuation point. Ken remained on the air passing information to the people tuned in, fielding listener phone calls, and collecting more details about the fire.
At 2:00am in the morning, an Oregon State trooper came to the studio and told Ken it was time to evacuate. Ken unplugged and shut the broadcasting equipment down to go and meet his wife. Ken says it was one of the highest adrenalin charged moments in his life.
In the second of two videos, Ken explains how he and his wife lost everything in the fire. The couple safely evacuated with the clothes they were wearing, his wallet and two cars—their home and everything else was tragically lost.
Ken talks about his experience and patience needed working through the many steps to rebuild in Santiam Canyon. He explains that FEMA/EPA did an assessment of the properties in his neighborhood which included an evaluation and clean-up of household waste materials, and marked the properties for any hazardous materials such as asbestos. Ken’s property is now on a list for State/Federal cleanup due to asbestos in the original structure.
Ken also describes how ODOT is the primary agency overseeing the various contractors supporting the clean-up. He also highlights preliminary plans for rebuilding of a new foundation and a replacement home being delivered in late May of 2021.