Jackie Davis is 12 years old and lives in McKenzie Bridge, Oregon. She likes to catch snakes and salamanders in her yard. She’d like to work in claymation when she grows up. In late summer of 2020, the Holiday Farm wildfire swept through the valley where she lives and they had to evacuate. Her house wasn’t damaged by the fire, but more than 500 other homes were destroyed.
We talked about the fire, the things she brought with her when they evacuated, and what she loves about growing up in the woods of Oregon.
Jackie was named for her grandfather, Jackie Herman, who I also interviewed for A Peace of My Mind.
Can you tell me about that day? The day of the fire?
“[The fire] was scary. I was more worried about my friends because they lived closer to where it happened and they drove through the flames. So I was worried if they were gonna get hurt, which they didn’t.
My dad just got home. The power went out and we were playing cards. My mom said that we had to go to bed, so we went to the bed and my dad slept on the couch.
I was really scared because of all the wind and since it was a power outage, so I started packing even though there wasn’t a fire warning yet. I told my mom to pack and my dad, but he didn’t pack yet.
Then my sister called and said that there is gonna be a fire happening because she was a firefighter at the time.
Since I was already packed, I told my dad to pack because he was sleeping. I woke him up. Then the wind started getting worse and we packed everything up. I grabbed my whistle and my knife and my bag—clothes—and we got into the car and went down to Al and Angelica’s house. They live two houses down from us and we told them to get everything packed, but they already knew. We said that we were gonna all go down to Bend together because Bend was the closest place.
Then we down to my other friend’s house down the road and we told them and I said it a little bit too fast. So they got a little too worried, which it’s fine, because it was scary.
I fell asleep in the car. When I woke up, my mom and dad said that there were trees falling down. I woke up and then we were in Bend. We were going down to people named Mark and Kerry. This might have been one or two in the morning. I don’t know exactly. But we slept in their trailer.
Things can happen and you should always have a backpack ready. I’m lucky that our house didn’t burn down. It’s just very scary.
I brought my gun just in case. It’s kinda stupid, but I brought this chest that I have. It’s a very small one and it has very valuable stuff to me in it. Like the stone carved bear my dad gave me when he went to the fires once and a couple other things. I brought a blanket just in case and my favorite stuffed animals that have memories to me.
One’s name is Idaho Freckles, which I got from my mom and dad when we were going to Idaho. That’s one of my favorite ones. And then I have one named Bullet Junior, because of my dog that I had since I was six. I didn’t have this other stuffy that I have right now, which is named Sunny Junior, which was our favorite cat that we were gonna bring with us on the trip. But we didn’t have enough time to bring all of our cats. They didn’t get hurt or anything. They were all OK. “
What do you love about this place? These woods and these mountains?
“I love to be surrounded by trees. It makes me feel more safe even though it is more fire worry. I still love it. Living out here just makes me feel more comfortable. I don’t know why. I just didn’t like Portland that much. I mean I liked it, but I guess it’s more scary and unpredictable than it is here.
I made a club. We’re called the NBKC, North Bank Kids Club. And we do a bunch of lab experiments and stuff. I guess we tried to do this one thing—which turned out really fun—but the parents don’t want us to do it because it gets the inside of the house really dirty. It’s called experimental kitchens. We just mixed a bunch of stuff together and see if it tastes good.
We also just like to capture the snakes and frogs and salamanders. The frogs are poisonous. You can smell them when they put off their poisons when they’re scared. So we put them back if they get really scared. We also just grab a bunch of different grass and stuff and put it in bottles and then add water to see what it would look like.
We also grab my dad’s GoPro, which is mine now. And we make movies. That’s really fun. I’m usually the monster and all my friends are the actors because I don’t like to be in the movie that much.
I don’t know. We just play around back there. I think it’s really fun. And in the forest, another thing I love about this place is that we can build forts in the trees. So me and my friends built a teepee out of a bunch of sticks.
We’re probably gonna keep adding to it, but there’s not enough branches back there. There’s this part that we get the branches from and it’s a big indent in the ground and some of those trees, we don’t wanna grab them from because we like to see them there and cover up the area so we don’t see the cars. We don’t like to see the road right back there. So we leave what was there and we have to grab ones that have already fallen down from this other place.”
Did any of your friends wind up moving away because of the fire?
“Yeah. There’s not that many people in the school anymore because of it. Most people just got trailers, but one of my friends moved away. Yesterday I went to their house. Their house didn’t burn down, but they had to move because of smoke and stuff. We put gloves on and boots and productive gear so we didn’t get hurt. We went through their garage that was burnt down. It was metal, but there wasn’t any garage there anymore. It was just extra stuff and we went through there. We found little antiques that they had, stuff that their grandma had because their grandma was living there. But they had to move because the trailer was that she was living in, the windows were broken and melted and there was a cat in there the whole time. But the cat didn’t get hurt.
And the fire got all around their place except for their house. The house was up a hill. So it didn’t get their house, but it got all around their house. So close to their house. It could have touched the walls, but it didn’t. When I went there, their grass was all burnt.
It’s devastating for people’s houses that got burnt down. And my parents know somebody who built a house up here that they had just for retirement and they built a bunch of stuff on it and right when they were done, the fire happened and their house got burnt down completely.”
What does peace mean to you?
“I don’t know. When I think of it, I guess it means happy. And not as scared, I guess, as normal. Like seeing my house wasn’t burned down, honestly.
One other person, I think it was Al, went down to Blue River to see everything, just to make sure everyone was okay to get everyone out. He saw all those houses that were burnt down. But when he came back and said our house was okay, I was relieved, but still worried.
My dad took some photos, but they were really smokey, so he couldn’t really see anything. But when I got home, I was so happy to see our house and go inside and see all of our cats and they were alive in here and didn’t run away from the wind blowing, because the wind was blowing so much that trees were falling down everywhere.
Nothing really happened to our house. So, really I tried to help others instead of them helping me. There’s one of my friends, her house burned down. Also her grandpa’s house burned down. All of her stuff was gone so my dad got a trailer for them. They were really happy about that.
I tried to help them too. I let her open up to me. Stuff about the fire.”
-Have you ever had to evacuate your home for any reason?
-What are the things you would bring with you if you could only carry one small bag?
-When have you been scared?
-What brings you comfort?
-Talk about your connection to the outdoors.
-When has life felt uncertain?
-When have you been able to help others?
-When has disaster spared you?