Pinehurst Inn owner breathes a sigh of relief

Denise Rowlett was ready to go Thursday afternoon.

The Pinehurst Inn's co-owner for six years, she had her necessities packed. She was set to run out the door in case a Level 1 evacuation order worsened to Level 3 — get out now — because of the Oregon Gulch wildfire, which was still far away but headed her way and growing fast.

But luckily for Rowlett and the historic inn, the wind changed direction. The lightning-sparked fire raced away from her establishment, the flames billowing back toward the southeast in a refueled sprint.

"Relief is probably an understatement," Rowlett said. "This is my business. This is my home, and I would hate to see anything happen.

"You can only do so much. That's my philosophy. You can only do so much, and then you pray."

The inn, located off Highway 66, is open for business, with just some leftover smoke left lingering along the ground. The fire continues to burn to the southeast, tearing through dry grass and forestlands. Overnight, the flames bathed the hillsides in an orange glow.

"It looked like I was looking at San Francisco," Rowlett said.

The fire, which roared to life in the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, had grown to 7,500 acres by late Friday morning and was moving into Klamath County and Northern California. The flames have reportedly leveled several structures, but no deaths or injuries have been reported.

Rowlett's husband, Donald, is on the front lines as a volunteer firefighter. She's received multiple text messages saying he's OK. On Thursday, she sent out a round of food and water to him and others.

Rowlett was surprised at how quickly the fire moved, but not at the spread itself. She said numerous untouched slash piles in the surrounding forests make for easy fuel.

"This is not a great mystery," she said.

Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or

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