FireWatch: The fires of September 8, six months later

Monday, March 8 marks six months since the Almeda, South Obenchain, and Slater fires swept through Jackson, Josephine, and Siskiyou counties.

Posted: Mar 8, 2021 5:55 PM
Updated: Apr 27, 2021 11:49 AM

PHOENIX, Ore. — Monday, March 8 marks six months since the Almeda, South Obenchain, and Slater fires swept through Jackson, Josephine, and Siskiyou counties — scorching thousands of acres and leaving thousands of people without their homes or businesses.

In the areas of Talent and Phoenix that were leveled by the Almeda Fire, seven mobile home parks are beginning to have ash and debris removal done. The process for cleaning up home sites is at last beginning to pick up, with more than 600 homes cleared and more than 200 almost ready for reconstruction.

The progress is good news, but many people who lost their homes are still struggling to find stable housing in the meantime. Angela Oliver and her fiance have been struggling to stay afloat ever since they lost everything in the fire. With Jackson County's current housing market, the couple says they really only have two choices — continue to stay at the RV park, or leave the Rogue Valley.

"We might end up having to leave the area," said Angela. "And I don't want to do that because my family, they're born and raised here."

Clarinda Wyant says that the process of rebuilding her home has been delayed. Contractors, surveyors, and permits for building are taking longer than expected to be reached or completed, because resources are being diverted to other areas of the rebuilding effort. Wyant worries that her home will not be completed before her insurance coverage runs out within the next six months.

"I very much doubt that my house is going to be built before then," Wyant said. "So that means I'm going to have to start paying $3,000 a month, which is going to cut into the building and replacing all of our furniture and everything that we lost."

Wyant hopes that state legislators will extend the insurance coverage for people who were affected by the September wildfires longer than the allotted one-year timeframe — which would not only help her out, but thousands of Oregonians in similar situations.


RELATED: Proposed measure will expand insurance protections for Oregonians impacted by disasters


Even though some people were able to save their home's from the September 8 wildfires, they were not left unscathed by the flames. Janice Schultz and her husband are among the lucky people to have their home survive the devastating South Obenchain fire that ignited exactly six months ago.

"We've spent 45 years here, you know, building things," Schultz said. "Everything we lost, my husband built. So it was really quite personal."

The couple lost a guest house, a small side house, and a workshop with all of the tools and equipment inside. Two chicken coops and four sheds were destroyed by the fire, but Schultz said that the losses could have much much worse if it weren't for her husband and the firebreak that protected their home.

During the spring of 2020, Schultz and her husband created a "defensible space" surrounding their home, making sure that all flammable material near their house was removed.

"There is never going to be a hundred percent chance that your house is going to make it, because it's a natural disaster," said Natalie Weber, public information officer for the Oregon Department of Forestry. "We can't plan for everything, but I can tell you that when you do have defensible space, your house is much more likely to survive a wildfire."

Sharon and Mike Bateman weren't so lucky. Though they did create a defensible space around their home before the South Obenchain Fire hit, it wasn't enough.

Six months later, both Schultz and the Batemans are beginning to rebuild the parts of their property that were lost. They say that if it wasn't for the support of their community, they don't know if they would be at this point in the process of recovery.

"So much of our community has just come together with us and backed us up and people have just been so good to us in helping us rebuild. When I came home, I mean, I couldn't have got along without the neighbors, letting us know what was going on. You know, outside of our mind."

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 190804

Reported Deaths: 2528
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah37830583
Washington25279229
Marion21739306
Clackamas17107209
Lane12799145
Jackson10716135
Deschutes866973
Umatilla814084
Linn479867
Yamhill441175
Klamath430861
Polk369952
Malheur349861
Josephine330268
Douglas322070
Benton302619
Jefferson216734
Coos204633
Columbia170526
Union144423
Lincoln137020
Wasco137028
Hood River117930
Morrow110015
Crook106520
Clatsop9738
Baker94614
Curry6459
Tillamook6363
Grant5065
Lake4447
Harney3378
Wallowa1825
Gilliam621
Sherman581
Wheeler281
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 3757115

Reported Deaths: 62280
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles123542224008
Riverside2990644587
San Bernardino2965144697
San Diego2777593725
Orange2707055005
Santa Clara1188512085
Kern1089931373
Sacramento1041761672
Fresno1016251684
Alameda875851545
Ventura808421011
San Joaquin730091391
Contra Costa68503804
Stanislaus619161055
Tulare49554839
Monterey43563382
San Mateo41844568
San Francisco36616543
Santa Barbara34306453
Solano32752249
Merced31743458
Sonoma29975318
Imperial28352721
Kings22965246
Placer22550290
San Luis Obispo21282260
Madera16439242
Santa Cruz16188206
Marin14034228
Yolo13875209
Shasta12071226
Butte11943199
El Dorado10111112
Napa984981
Sutter9411111
Yuba622146
San Benito604863
Lassen569824
Tehama555358
Nevada470775
Tuolumne412364
Mendocino406149
Humboldt393539
Amador365147
Lake346743
Glenn238125
Colusa223016
Siskiyou218123
Calaveras212153
Inyo142638
Del Norte13678
Mono12804
Plumas7066
Modoc4954
Mariposa4457
Trinity3995
Sierra1120
Alpine880
Unassigned330
Medford
Partly Cloudy
47° wxIcon
Hi: 70° Lo: 34°
Feels Like: 47°
Brookings
Partly Cloudy
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Feels Like: 54°
Crater Lake
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47° wxIcon
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Grants Pass
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47° wxIcon
Hi: 70° Lo: 36°
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Klamath Falls
Partly Cloudy
33° wxIcon
Hi: 62° Lo: 28°
Feels Like: 33°
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