Rowena fire burns right to edge of man's house

Rowena fire burns right to edge of man's house »Play Video
Jim McGee, 86, explains how flames from the Rowena wildfire burned right up to his house during the night.

THE DALLES, Ore. -- Jim McGee drove up in his golf cart and told us there a was a fire in the yard at his house near The Dalles Country Club.

We followed him to his house.

"Right there," the 86-year-old said. "That's why I called them back."

He pointed to railroad ties in his yard, stacked with rebar like a retaining wall, just feet from his driveway. The Rowena fire had burned through his yard during the night, and flames were smoldering in the stack of wood.

"It's just a little scary," he said. "I'm just going to get a couple of hoses and hook it up."

Fire crews had been at his house already Thursday and had put out those flames.

The flames returned.

Luckily, so did the fire crew.

A fire truck from Sheridan pulled into McGee's driveway. The crew jumped out, quickly rolled out hoses and attacked the ties.

Meanwhile, McGee showed us where the fire had burned during the night: right up to the shed at his carport next to his house.

"It kind of torched the back of this shed a little bit," said McGee.

He credits fire crews for stopping the flames right there before they could actually reach the house.

"Those guys, I don't know how they do it," he marveled. "It's miraculous that we're still here."

He said he has lived in the house for 30 years.

"It's an old double-wide," McGee said. "It's eighth-inch veneer and glue, and so if starts up, it just explodes. It goes, 'Poof.'"

A firefighter interrupted the conversation, telling McGee that the fire had started making a run at the highway. It was clear the situation was getting urgent.

Not quite urgent enough for McGee, who said he would stay until they made him leave.

"We're okay. We're very old and our bucket list is finished. We're good with what happens," said McGee, with a smile.

Firefighters put out the flaming railroad ties. But the rest of the Rowena fire was still burning, moving, shifting.

A parade of fire trucks drove past McGee's house.

Then, law enforcement, told us all to go. Could they convince McGee?

We drove off. McGee was still there.

Finally, he appeared in his sedan, cheerfully making his way down the hill.

"Got to evacuate!" said McGee. He waved and drove off with a smile.