Carlton Complex Fire survivor Jim Udell said his favorite thing about the house built for him by the Okanogan County Long Term Recovery Group (OCLTRG) was “the house itself. Without it, I don’t have nothing,” he said. “I really appreciate what you’ve done for me, from now on till the end of time.”
The OCTLRG and dozens of volunteers who helped on the homes were on hand for four housewarmings in March, capping a long recovery process with tears, gratitude and music.
Udell shared a moment with OCLTRG reconstruction project manager Barry Hansen and disaster case manager Jessica Martin, top right photo, who worked with him throughout the long recovery process. Like all new homeowners, Udell received a handmade quilt from one of the volunteer groups.
Udell had moved his original house — a converted railroad station from Pateros — to the site outside Brewster. They rebuilt using the old foundation, but reoriented the house to provide a more expansive view of the hills, he said.
Udell said the fifth-wheel trailer he’d lived in for a while is now available for someone else.
Volunteers from Christian Public Services (CPS) are not only skilled carpenters, but also talented vocalists, as their a cappella choir, right, demonstrated in opening and closing songs at each housewarming celebration. A CPS couple from Idaho has committed a full year to the rebuilding process and serve as house parents to other volunteers from the U.S. and Canada.
“I’m the luckiest guy in the world. I came in here last night and kept walking from room to room, shaking my head,” said Joe Glandon about his new home perched on a steep hillside outside Brewster, below. Glandon was congratulated by Carlene Anders, executive director of the OCLTRG, photo below, right.
After his house burned, Glandon initially made do in a shed he constructed from old pallets retrieved from an apple shed. “I can’t say more than ‘thank you.’ It seems like too little, but ‘thank you.’ It’s awesome,” said Glandon.
In the next phase, OCLTRG plans to replace eight homes for Carlton Complex survivors from 2014 and seven homes for survivors of the Okanogan Complex Fire in 2015, although they are still doing fundraising to cover all the homes. They expect to start site work and pour foundations in April.
Twelve of the 14 homes for Carlton Complex survivors have already been completed.