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‘Still in survival mode’: Detroit residents struggle to recover, a year after devastating wildfire

NewsChannel 21 talks to residents, businesses about the long road to recovery in Detroit

DETROIT, Ore. (KTVZ) -- A little over a year ago, displaced Oregonians returned to their fire-stricken communities to begin repairing what was left of their homes, and to rebuild their lives. After the Beachie Creek and Lionshead fires burned through Santiam Canyon, the destruction left most residents with only memories.

NewsChannel 21 recently caught up with Detroit resident Jody Evans, who was among those evacuated to the Deschutes County Fairgrounds in Redmond after her home burned down. She says it’s been a year of much suffering.

“A year later, and I am still in survival mode -- it's hard," Evans said. “It’s just a slow process. People are struggling. Some people are still living in hotel rooms.” 

Evans says while many pitched in to provide resources, it was a slow rollout, because so many were in need.

Mayor Jim Trett says, "FEMA is struggling to keep up with the rate of recovery, because so many, because it's going faster than they're used to."

Despite the slow rollout of resources, Evans says she learned a valuable lesson.

“Everyone needs to check and see if their (insurance) policies cover a replacement clause -- a replacement clause at today's prices," Evans explained. "It matters, and most policies don’t have it, so for me I was under-insured, and they paid off my mortgage -- but I’m still homeless.”

Evans is living in a camper in Albany and was recently approved for a housing voucher from the Santiam Service Integration Team. She'll soon begin the process of looking for a one-bedroom apartment for the winter.

Other residents like Ed Bowman, whose home survived the fires, have a more positive outlook on the city’s recovery process.

“I think the town’s remarkable It looks so much nicer. It’s cleaned up," Bowman said.

However, businesses in Detroit, the very few still standing, are struggling to stay open.

Staple businesses like The Lodge at Detroit Lake are closing down.

After 30 years in business, Rivers Run Gas and Deli burned down during the fire. However, after rebuilding and reopening on July 4, the business continues to struggle.

Rivers Run cashier Caci Clerk says the former two-story building, full kitchen and shopping area is now just two shipping containers and a few gas pumps.

“It’s hard ,because a lot of summer homes burned, and that was a lot of our business just from people coming up on the weekends in the summertime," Clark told NewsChannel 21. "And then the lake being drained early this year was a struggle, on top of everything else.”

Even through the hardships continue, she says, the residents remain resilient.

“It’s a struggle, but one worth fighting for, I feel," Clark said.

The mayor says they are working on new systems to ensure the town is able to better recover, in case of another fire event.

Trett says they’re now working with the Forest Service and FEMA on how to better maintain the water system and resources in case of emergencies. He’s also hoping to establish an electronic siren complex, from Mill City to Gates, to alert residents in case of electronics failures.

“I’ve really come to believe that because of the resiliency of the people who live in Detroit, we are going to come back a little bit better than we were -- and we were a pretty good place before the fire," Trett said.  

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Arielle Brumfield

Arielle Brumfield is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Arielle here.

Comments

4 Comments

  1. Always plenty of money and resources to take care of millions of invading illegal aliens but not enough to take care of our own Americans.

  2. Forty years of horrific environmental decisions- resulting in never ending summers of smoke and soot- now Oregon’s Demokrat mob of incompetents can’t help these people out of the rubble… Go ahead Oregon- keep voting Demokrat- and guarantee yerselves more decades of misery.

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