Oregon fire displaces Quad-City native Michael ‘Hawkeye’ Herman and his wife from their home

Local News

Earlier this year, Willitte and Michael “Hawkeye” Herman celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary and his 75th birthday. (Photo courtesy of Michael “Hawkeye” Herman.)

Quad-City native and internationally known blues musician and educator Michael “Hawkeye” Herman and his wife are safe from the fire destroying parts of Oregon.

Michael “Hawkeye” Herman provided this photo of the early moments of the fire near their home in the valley.

His home of Talent has been devastated by fire, along with the nearby town of Phoenix, he said.”My wife and I are sheltering with friends in Grants Pass, 35 miles north of my home,” he said. “Our home survived, but the area is a dangerous place to be. We have no idea when we’ll be allowed tp permanently return to our home.”

The fire began Tuesday, he said. He wrote about his experience in a message to family and friends:

“Containment of the fire that swept up the Greenway nature trail along Highway 99 & I-5 in our area was not possible, even though two big 727 jets and helicopters dropped water and retardant for hours to little avail,” he said. “We were warned to pack up and be ready to leave on Tuesday at noon, and we were told to evacuate a few hours later, at 3 p.m.”
His wife Willitte and Herman each took one suitcase, as well as numerous musical instruments.

“Rather than risk getting in the evacuation traffic headed north to the county fairgrounds 15 miles away to where the emergency evacuation center was set up, we proceeded two miles up the mountain near our home and we watched the towns of Talent and Phoenix burn from the relative safety up on the mountainside farm and lovely home of a friend for the entire night and into the early morning,” he said. “The constant hours of explosions of propane tanks was … beyond words.”

At 10 a.m. Wednesday, the flames had abated and they ventured down the mountain in their car, past burned-out homes and businesses he describes as “war-zone in appearance.” They were overjoyed to find that our home and the other homes their dead-end street at the south end of town had survived the fire.

The fire line was 200 yards from their home. “Everything beyond is now devastation,” he said.

They still couldn’t stay in their house because there no electricity or water. They are waiting to hear when they can return to their home for cleanup.

“It could be days or weeks due to so much devastation, down power lines, power poles, and natural gas leaks,” he said. “The fires are still smoldering and mop-up efforts are a long way off.”

“We’re truly blessed and grateful to have survived and to have our home intact.”

About Michael “Hawkeye” Herman
Michael “Hawkeye” Herman was born in Davenport in 1945. He grew up in Rock Island, graduating in 1963 from Rock Island High School and attending the University of Iowa.
After college he moved to the San Francisco Bay area for a career as a blues musician, composer and songwriter that took him all over the world.

He moved to Oregon in 1999 for “peace and quiet” when he wasn’t touring domestically or internationally.

His song, “The Great Flood of ’93,” has been used on the soundtracks of two video documentaries about the Midwest disaster, and has been included in a compact disc anthology of singer/songwriters produced by the New York-based music magazine “Fast Folk.”

As a music educator, Herman has taken his love of blues music to students of all ages, from preschool to university campuses through his enthusiastically received “Blues in the Schools” programs, which he initiated in 1980.

Herman served for six years on the Board of Directors of the Blues Foundation in Memphis, and was chairperson of the Foundation’s education committee.
He contributed to the book/CD anthology, “Up the Mississippi/A Journey Of The Blues,” published by the Mississippi Valley Blues Society in 2003.

In 2004, Herman was inducted into the Iowa Blues Hall of Fame in Des Moines.
For more about Herman, visit www.hawkeyeherman.com

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