The Cedars restaurant, Detroit, OR
Site of The Cedars restaurant, Detroit, OR

In September, 2020, a wildfire destroyed the resort town of Detroit, Oregon. Do a search for “Detroit” on my blog and you’ll see just how meaningful this town has been for me. I have ridden my motorcycles to this place more times than I can count.

The wildfire that took Detroit threatened my own home in Sandy. The boundary of mandatory evacuation orders came within a few hundred yards of my house. The smoke was so thick we almost left voluntarily just to go someplace with cleaner air. Only the risk of exposing ourselves to family members and possible transmission of COVID-19 prevented us from leaving.

Recently I traveled (by car) to Detroit to see the destruction first hand. The route I usually take along highway 224 through Estacada and Ripplebrook Ranger Station, and then Forest Service road 46 south past Breitenbush, is closed due to clean up efforts and risk of landslides. A section of highway 224 burned a few years ago after target shooters started a wildfire, and it suffered substantially more devastation during the latest conflagration. Instead, I had to drive down 211 through Molalla to Sublimity, and east on highway 22.

Reaching Detroit, I could see the evidence of just how massive the fire was. But when I stopped in the town itself and looked at the charred ground where The Cedars Restaurant and the Detroit Store once stood, I felt a deep sadness for what once was.

Detroit, OR, January 17, 2021
View of downtown Detroit, OR, January 2021, after the fire.
Detroit, OR store site
Site of Detroit, OR store, gone after fire.

In one lot where a building or home once stood, sticking up from the blackened ground was a white PVC pipe with a Trump 2020 flag attached at the top. The juxtaposition of a Trump flag in the middle of scorched earth was a profound metaphor for just how devastating his presidency was, and the profound irony of someone who refuses to acknowledge his incompetence and lies.

I am very curious to see how, or if, the town of Detroit rebounds and recovers. There is still a lot of work to be done and I saw no evidence of any new construction. Perhaps the locals haven’t returned — to what? — or have given up. Time will tell.