Moving to a new community and meeting new friends can be a challenge and usually takes effort. When Mark Tesch and Michelle Jerome moved into their Canyon Street home in Twisp in the Spring of 2019, they knew a few people already in the valley having just moved from nearby Chelan, where they lived for 40 years. What they didn’t expect was how they’d soon become intertwined and bonded to a host of locals through tragedy.
Just three months after moving into their home, a spontaneous combustion occurred in an old shed in the northwest corner of their property. With 98-degree temperatures on a crispy Aug. 6, 2019, a slight breeze carried the flames to the old Dutch bungalow home, engulfing it in flames instantaneously. By the time they received the message, the home was complete loss. They returned to the scene and found an army of firefighters, neighbors, and residents pitching in to beat down flames. The neighboring properties were saved by the valiant effort of a group of teenagers who put in a fire line and defended the uphill properties. That night, they had more offers of places to stay than they could recount. For weeks following their loss, when they went out to eat, someone would almost always cover their bill.
For the past two years, Mark and Michelle have been busy rebuilding, and just like all the outpouring of help in fighting the fire, church friends, family, new neighbors, and strangers offered hours of time from clean up to final touches on their new, beautiful craftsman home.
Clean up took four months and thankfully the foundation was solid. Extensions of help came from all over. For instance, All Season’s Rental in Chelan offered a baby track-hoe for free for the months necessary to clean up. Nearly all the home’s contents were destroyed, aside from a few odds and ends in a closet that withstood total devastation and some hotdogs from the freezer. Ironically, the fireproof strong box was never found.
Tesch, a life-long builder for Habitat for Humanity, was determined that the rebuild would be energy efficient and environmentally friendly; he wanted to salvage anything he could for the new house. Thankfully, the home’s subfloor was comprised of old growth 1” x 6” boards that didn’t burn because the floor became saturated from fire hoses. Here’s where volunteers were critical — pulling nails. Lots and lots of nails. Tesch and Jerome collected the unburned boards, belt sanded them, and ripped them down to 1” x 4”s, then trimmed all their interior windows and doors in the main room. They also used the 1” x 6” boards as accent wall pieces through the home, giving it a natural and rustic feel.
They didn’t stop there with the repurposing of the home. The majority of their furniture was all donated and they managed to find used solid wood cabinets at reuse center in Seattle, furnishing their entire kitchen for under $2,000. A price unheard of for custom, sold wood cabinets.
Tesch and Jerome, thankful to be settled in their new home “with both feet on the ground” want to extend their gratitude to the social net of supporters, volunteers, and labor that helped them rebuild. From the building official, subcontractors, to their adult sons, the cooperation and generosity of everyone along the way has been a blessing amidst an otherwise tumultuous and tragic two years.
Tesch enjoys giving tours of his new home and welcomes anyone from the grand new front porch to learn about the energy strategies.