On the night of Wednesday, Sept. 15, evacuees from the Holiday Farm Fire staying at the Holiday Inn Express received a note that said due to an event and previous bookings, they would have to find another place to stay. With the town of Blue River and other areas largely destroyed and uninhabitable and the world in a pandemic, the evacuees were concerned.
But the next day, as displaced community members tried to figure out where to shelter next, the American Red Cross extended their stay through Oct. 3.
The hotel’s previous contracted reservations were for families moving their kids into the University of Oregon dorms. It is unknown if UO planned to offer accommodations for evacuees. UO did not respond to request for comment as of press time. Now, Holiday Inn Express and Travel Lane County are working together to find alternative spaces for those moving back into the university.
“We currently have a new extended contract until Oct. 3, 2020. We will be asking our local hotel partners and Travel Lane County to assist in the relocation of our future guests who were coming to deliver their students back to the University area,” Holiday Inn General Manager Sarah Smith says in a press release.
A spokesperson for the American Red Cross says the nonprofit works with hotel partners to book available hotel rooms but rooms are not always available.
“We will continue to do everything we can to avoid having to relocate people from one shelter location to another,” he adds.
In providing shelter for those displaced by the fire, Red Cross originally reached out to the Holiday Inn Express in Eugene on Sept. 8, asking to book rooms. “Our general manager, employees and owners immediately sprang into action, calling in all staff to prep rooms for incoming evacuees,” the press release says.
The hotel had set up four-day reservations for 74 rooms dedicated to evacuees and their families, which included 131 adults and 33 children. But as the fire continued on and conditions remain hazardous many people are still unable to return to their homes, if there is anything left to return to. Many have now been at the hotel for over a week, and some who fled to the east still have to stay over in Redmond.
On Sept. 16, the evacuees received a note that said “Due to a large event in Lane County, we need to honor the advanced reservations that many hotels currently hold.” The notice also explained that Red Cross is still committed to helping victims of the fire, and that Churchill High School was open for people to stay at.
Evacuee Crystal Bryan wrote in an email to Eugene Weekly that they were given less than 24 notice to switch shelters. She expressed concern about moving to the high school because many of the people at the hotel are high risk for COVID-19.
But by the next day, the American Red Cross and the Holiday Inn Express had worked out the solution, allowing the evacuees to remain at the hotel for the time being.
“The Red Cross Cascades Region has been very helpful and the outpouring of love and support has been encouraging,” Bryan said.