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Smoke from Oregon wildfires fills the air at the Coos Bay Red Lion Inn.

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SOUTH COAST — Fred Ferdig has been up for 24 hours a day lately.

The manager of the Economy Inn in Reedsport, Ferdig's hotel has borne an influx of guests this week — unusual for the week after Labor Day.

"It's never been anything like this," Ferdig said. "My hours have increased quite a bit, but it's all doing good work."

Ferdig, like many in his industry, has been playing his part in the response to massive blazes across the state. As historic fires dot all corners of Oregon and approach populated areas, evacuees have been pushed from around the state to hotels in cities with less fire impact, like those along the South Coast.

Some of the most dangerous include the Beachie Creek Fire, burning 185,000 acres east of Salem, the Holiday Farm Fire, burning around 145,000 acres east of Springfield, and the Riverside fire, burning 120,000 acres near Estacada.

Several others are burning in southern Oregon, including the Archie Creek Fire northeast of Roseburg, the Two Four Two Fire near Chiloquin and the South Obenchain Fire in Jackson County.

All told, the Oregon Office of Emergency Management estimates that over 500,000 Oregonians — over 10% of the state's population — have been forced to evacuate their homes due to the fires fueled by a changing climate.

Ferdig, the hotel manager in Reedsport, estimates that his hotel is about 25% busier than it was this time last year. One of the main challenges he faces is getting families into right-sized rooms, especially since he has a limited number of pet-friendly spaces.

"They grabbed their kids and their pets and headed for the door," Ferdig said.

The toughest part, though, is that many of his new guests have lost their homes to the flames, or don't know the status of their property, Ferdig said.

"For me, it's a challenge," Ferdig said. "We're helping our neighbors."

Ferdig's hotel has been trying to keep its prices lower than usual, he said. On Thursday, Oregon Governor Kate Brown announced an executive order prohibiting price gouging for lodging reservations in response to wildfire evacuations.

"Thousands of people loaded their cars and precious belongings, pets, and as much as they could possibly carry," Brown told a press conference Thursday. "They are sleeping away from their homes, in motels, on cots and in shelters, or with family and friends. Folks are really scared and looking for information."

Evacuees are coming to the South Coast from Lincoln City, communities northeast of Roseburg and areas outside of Medford among others, Ferdig said.

The same is true at the Coos Bay Red Lion Inn, according to Assistant Manager Melissa Hannah.

"They're just afraid. They're just trying to get somewhere safe," Hannah said. "We're trying to help where we can."

In some cases, Hannah has guests on standby — people who live near fires but haven't yet evacuated. The hotel's staff maintains contact with those people in case they end up needing a reservation, Hannah said.

The South Coast, however, has been relatively lucky in terms of wildfires. Smoke from around the state has stuck in the air, but only a handful of homes have had to evacuate due to the fire between Bandon and Coquille.

"Makes you feel thankful for what you have," Hannah added.

While the worst fires have hit elsewhere in the state, there are still a number of ways South Coast residents can support the evacuation and recovery efforts due to this week's wildfires.

Across the state, the Red Cross has set up evacuation centers for area residents. While unable to take material donations at this time due to COVID-19 concerns, the organization is accepting financial donations at www.redcross.org/donate.

For those who want to donate time, the Red Cross takes volunteer applications at www.redcross.org/volunteer.

For fires in Lane County, the United Way is taking financial donations and volunteer assistance at www.unitedwaylane.org/wildfire-response.

In Lincoln County, the Salvation Army is accepting financial donations online at salarmy.us/oregon-wildfires, and potential volunteers are encouraged to call 541-265-6814.

In Coos Bay, the Devereux Center is offering its services for those displaced by wildfires, including food, showers, laundry and a clothing closet. It's always accepting donations, and more information is available at www.thedevereuxcenter.org/.

In previous large wildfires, the center saw an influx of clients coming from California in need of assistance. While that hasn't happened yet this year, Executive Director Tara Johnson says that'll likely happen again.

"I'm imagining that it's just a matter of time before people come," Johnson said. "I'm assuming that services are going to get pretty tight in all of those (wildfire) locations."

Reporter Zack Demars can be reached at worldnews3@countrymedia.net.

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