Task Force crews help family retrieve treasured memento



In the year of cleanup efforts following the Oregon 2020 wildfires, Debris Management Task Force crews have cleared ash and debris from over 3,000 homes, cabins and businesses lost in the devastating fires.


As families fled the wildfires, little – if any – time remained to gather belongings or keepsakes from their homes. During the cleanup efforts, there have been situations when Task Force crews were asked to make additional efforts to help a property owner search for a beloved artifact or heirloom – a personal treasure lost in the rubble.


As property cleanup efforts were nearing completion, Drake McKee, On-Scene Incident Commander for the Beachie Creek/Lionshead Fire, received a unique request for property owner assistance from a family whose cabin was lost when the Lionshead Fire tore through Breitenbush east of Detroit.


The missing treasure wasn’t a piece of jewelry or family heirloom; it was a rock. Clayton Seaton, a mason by trade, had placed an almost perfectly symmetrical heart-shaped rock into the stone façade of his cabin’s fireplace for his wife Oleta.


“I told my wife I put the stone up there because that's my heart and you can see it up there in the fireplace and you can remember that I love you," Clayton explained.

Clayton and Oleta met in high school and were married for more than 70 years before Oleta passed away in September.


When McKee received the call from Shelly Seaton, the youngest of Clayton and Oleta’s five children, explaining the importance of the rock to the family, he immediately contacted K&E Excavating, the contractor performing the debris removal, to help find the rock in the debris left behind from the felled chimney.


As McKee explains in this video:


“We are coming to the end of our cleanup... let’s help someone close that chapter and heal from that experience. It’s kind of like a light at the end of the tunnel and rebuilding and people healing… I’m glad to be a part of it.”
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Wildfire waste and debris removal

The State of Oregon is working with federal, state and local partners to remove hazardous waste, and ash and debris from the 2020 Oregon wildfires safely, efficiently, and as quickly as possible. The Oregon Departments of Transportation, Environmental Quality and Emergency Management are leading the effort, with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency assistance.