CENTRAL POINT, Ore. — A man whose home stood near the path of the Penninger Fire says that Sheriff's deputies physically removed him from the property while he was attempting to save his house.
When John Derby and Mike Chacon saw the rapidly approaching smoke from the Penninger Fire, they say that they sprang into action. In order to get hoses from their yard to ward off the approaching fire, they ended up breaking down part of the fence.
"We just used brute force, put our shoulders into it...wound up breaking the boards at the base. I guess we're stronger than we thought," said Derby.
Both Derby and Chacon say that they weren't letting the house burn down without a fight.
"This is our house, we're defending it," Chacon said. "We're on the front lines of the fire, there's no firemen here, so we decided to defend our house and save it."
Meanwhile, deputies with the Jackson County Sheriff's Office (JCSO) were going door-to-door, advising residents to leave immediately.
The fire was moving fast, burning an outbuilding just a few hundred feet away from where Derby and Chacon were creating a wet line with their hoses.
When Sheriff's deputies got to Derby and Chacon, the two men say that they were told to leave, but they wanted to stay and try to save the house.
"They just said your lives are more important than this house," Chacon said.
Derby and Chacon claim that at first the deputies were kind, but eventually they began "dragging" the men out.
"They took my arm and hand behind my back and dragged me out, two of them did, and I actually got away and ran, tried to go in the house...and then there was another police officer in there. They grabbed me and took me out," Chacon said.
According to the Oregon Department of Forestry, evacuation orders are never mandatory.
A spokesperson for JCSO said that they had reports of deputies having to physically move a man for his own safety—because the fire was actively burning a few feet away from him, but they had no indication that the man was threatened or injured.
JCSO went door to door quickly getting people out, they said, and they don't know for certain if this incident describes Chacon.
Derby and Chacon now say that after they left, deputies grabbed both pets and pictures in their home to save from the house in case it did burn. The two men say that they appreciate the effort, but they are still upset that they were physically forced to leave. Their house still stands, intact.
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