LANE COUNTY-- There's no doubt that the rebuilding process from the devastating wildfires in the west will take some time. As many in Oregon wait on pins and needles wondering about the status of their homes, officials warn of the dangers that come from rushing back too quickly.
Steve McGuire is the Building Official for Lane County. He supervises the planning and inspection process for remodeling new construction, alterations and repairs.
“There's a lot of people wanting to rush back to their homes,” McGuire said. “A lot of those people are in the same situation of being stressed and having emotional concerns. So, I think driving up to your site safely is one of the first things to think about before you go up there.”
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McGuire said it is also important to contact your insurance company to get on the same page.
“When people go back to their site, they need to really be prepared for it,” McGuire said. “They need to wear personal protective equipment. They need to wear clothes that they are going to get ash on. They need protective boots, hard-soled shoes, work gloves, masks and some eye protection.”
This will help protect you from hazardous chemicals in the ash, as well as any sharp or hidden objects.
“People are still anxious to see it themselves to have some sort of closure to what's happened, so they can move forward,” McGuire said.
There are multiple levels of building assessments taking place, due to so many different factors to consider.
“Right now, we're wrapping up what's called an Initial Damage Assessment,” McGuires said. “That goes to Oregon Emergency Management at thestate level, and then that goes to FEMA. Afterwards, there's different kinds of assessment that would deal with personal property and personal homes”
Ausland Group has provided engineering and construction services across Oregon since 1947. They have offices in Ashland, Grants Pass and Eugene.
Kelsy Ausland is the president of the group and said that they hope to help those who have lost everything -- rebuild.
“We are offering pro bono services such as structurally inspecting the foundations of burnt buildings, fast tracking permits and helping people see how multi-family residential developments can be turnkey cost effectively to meet this new demand," Ausland said.
She said that in Southern Oregon alone, more than 2,500 homes were destroyed by fire.
“This new demand for homes really exacerbates a problem we have already had in Oregon, which is affordable housing," Ausland said. "Had we already been able to meet our affordable housing needs, this crisis would not be nearly as significant as it now is.”
Ausland hopes that policymakers and builders will come together to help provide everyone who needs it with affordable housing.
“I think this is an amazing time for us to come together as a community and provide an immediate need, which is for shelter and support services for so many who never thought they would be homeless and now find themselves in this situation,” Ausland said.
Lane County’s non-emergency call center for residents affected by the Holiday Farm Fire is adjusting its hours to 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily beginning Monday, September 21, due to a decreasing call volume.
Those with properties within the fire perimeter can call 541-682-3977 for information about their residences in the area, as well as to make other inquiries related to the fire.
More resources from Lane County can be found here.