By Ann McCreary
In a flurry of activity fueled by volunteer labor, four new home foundations were poured last week as part of the campaign to rebuild homes destroyed in the Carlton Complex Fire last summer.
Luke Miller, a volunteer from Montana, bounded nimbly atop the frame of a new home foundation on Balky Hill Road east of Twisp, guiding the concrete being poured for a 600-square-foot house on Thursday (April 30).
Miller is a concrete worker in his hometown of St. Ignatius, Montana, and was here with other members of a team from Western Anabaptist Mission Services.
“We want to give back to people who need help,” explained John Delagrange, one of five men working on the Balky Hill home last week.
“I’ve never poured concrete. It’s been a learning experience for me – I’ve been learning to follow instructions,” Delagrange said. “In our Amish culture, we are used to doing many different things.”
“They did great work, excellent work,” said Barry Hansen, reconstruction manager for the home rebuilding program being carried out by the Carlton Complex Long Term Recovery Group (CCLTRG).
The Anabaptist volunteers hired truck drivers (members of their faith don’t drive) to bring them, their equipment and forms for the foundations from Montana to work on foundations in the Brewster, Chiliwist, Mallot and Twisp areas. Nine workers came, along with a support team of three wives who cooked for them.
“It was a scramble, no doubt about it. It was a lot of hard work,” said Hansen, who arranged county building inspections for different phases of the foundation work at the four home sites.
County officials, he said, have been very accommodating in expediting the permitting and inspection process to allow the work on rebuilding homes move forward as quickly as possible. “It went extremely well considering what we were trying to do and keep on schedule,” Hansen said.
The Anabaptist Mission Services has sent other volunteers in recent months to repair fences and clear debris, and another group of Anabaptist volunteers is scheduled to come in a couple of weeks to begin framing homes.
The four new foundations completed last week are part of what is considered Phase 1 of the home rebuilding effort being carried out by the long term recovery group, said Carlene Anders, executive director.
The goal is to have 11 homes framed and ready for interior finishing by fall, and four homes fully completed by the end of summer, perhaps by the anniversary of the Carlton Complex Fire, Anders said.
The CCLTRG plans to rebuild about 42 homes that were destroyed when the Carlton Complex and Rising Eagle Road fires roared through the Methow Valley last July, burning almost 270,000 acres and destroying more than 500 structures, including about 300 homes. More homes and properties were damaged in resulting mudslides from fire-scarred hillsides.
Before launching into the rebuilding effort, money had to be raised to fund the effort and criteria put in place to guide which homes would be rebuilt.
In order to qualify for assistance in rebuilding their homes, fire survivors must meet several criteria approved by the CCLTRG board of directors, Anders said.
All must have been uninsured or underinsured; have clear title to their property; have lost their primary residence in the Carlton Complex of Rising Eagle Road fires or resulting mudslides; commit to live in the home as the primary residence; seek assistance and receive recommendations through disaster case mangers; agree to one of four floor plans approved by CCLTRG; agree to permitted and regulated building standards; play as active a role as physically and mentally possible in the rebuilding process; and use resources identified by case managers (such as insurance proceeds) toward rebuilding.
As of this week, pledges and donations have provided full funding for about eight of the 11 homes to be built in the first phase of reconstruction, Anders said. “We’re just about $90,000 shy of completing all 11.”
About $892,000 has been raised toward the home rebuilding effort, said Leslee Goodman, development and communications consultant for the CCLTRG. The pledges have come from a variety of groups, many of them faith-based organizations and non-governmental organizations that belong to Washington Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster.
“Leading the way has been the United Methodist Committee on Relief, with a quarter of a million dollars pledged,” Goodman said.
Other donors include North Creek Presbyterian Church, Mennonite Disaster Services, the Salvation Army, the American Red Cross, Room One, Community Foundation of North Central Washington, Carlton Complex Assistance Network, Okanogan County Community Action Council, Pateros Fire Relief Fund and Pateros Community Church.
Other funds have come from used clothing sales and thousands of individual donations gathered by various local and regional fire relief groups, Goodman said.
Assistance has come from other sources as well, Anders said. For instance, “local lumber companies are giving quality quotes below retail,” she said.
The homes will be built based on four floor plans approved by CCLTRG for one- to three-bedroom houses. Two plans were provided by Mennonite Disaster Services, which builds homes across the country. Two plans were developed for the rebuilding effort, Hansen said. The homes range from about 600 square feet to 1,000 square feet.
The North Creek Presbyterian Church in Mill Creek has committed to building house frames in Mill Creek for transport and assembly here to replace two homes burned in the fire.
A new wave of volunteers, including about 20 Western Anabaptist Mission Services carpenters, is expected to arrive May 18 to begin framing two homes a week, Goodman said.
On May 23, Mennonite Disaster Service crews will arrive, she said. A “head couple” will stay for six weeks, with rotating crews of eight coming each week to put up siding and complete interiors, Goodman said.
At the end of six weeks, a second head couple will arrive and continue the process for a total of 10 to 12 weeks.
Christian Public Service, another Mennonite group, is also slated to arrive June 1, Goodman said. They will frame four homes and stay for six months to complete exterior work and begin working on interiors.
Anders said she’s “thrilled” to see homes taking shape. “Everyone’s telling us we are moving quickly, but it feels so slow,” she said.
“I’ve had people familiar with disaster recovery programs tell me it’s a three-year process, and I say, ‘No, it’s a one-and-a-half year process for me.’
“They say you’ll start building in June and I say, ‘No, we’ll start building in April.’ And we’re hitting those targets.”