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SE Bend family struggles to find new home after losing theirs to fire

But community steps up, GoFundMe page tops goal

(UPDATE: Adding video, comments from family)

BEND, Ore (KTVZ) -- Sarah Orput and her husband James Hiatt were tending to their family garden a week ago when sudden tragedy struck.

The fire trucks were already there.

"Then this guy runs up the driveway," Orput recalled Friday. "I could hear banging next door, and then my neighbor ran into the front yard and said we have to go -- the house is on fire."

A fire sparked by a charcoal barbecue on a neighbor's patio spread fast and caused $350,000 in damage to two homes and two duplexes on Southeast Wilson Avenue.

"You feel for people when you hear them — when you hear about this happening," Orput said. "People who lose their houses to wildfire, it breaks your heart. But I never imagined it happening to us, especially." 

The fire was out in less than an hour, but the damage was done. Sarah, a server, James a tow truck driver, and their three children, ages 7 to 17, would need to find a new home.

Leaving the home for the family means leaving this garden where they grow tomatoes, lettuce and other vegetables. For them, it was training for one day owning their own small farm.

Orput said in about a week, the water will be shut off, and the garden will die. And her dream of owning a farm is on hold.

"It didn't really hit us until we got back here the next day," she said. "And then it was like -- then it was a bummer."

For now, their family is set up at a hotel by the Red Cross, but they still don't have a place after next week, when that runs out.

They have been unable to find a new home in Bend that fits their budget.

Thankfully, James' sister, Meghan Hiatt, knowing how difficult starting over in bend is, set up a GoFundMe page for the family, and it surpassed the $7,000 goal, raising about $8,300 by Friday evening.

"It was worth a shot," she said. "I didn't know we were going to have the response that they've had to the GoFundMe. People have been amazing and generous and loving and come out of the woodwork for this family."

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Jack Hirsh

Jack Hirsh is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Jack here.


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