Coming to terms with the devastation
The devastation is so overwhelming that it is difficult to process it, to come to terms with the scope of the tragedy that swept through the valley in the past week. But face it we must, and begin the long process of rebuilding. Where the resources will come from is still uncertain, as is the extent of the losses.
Emergency crews are still dealing with potentially dangerous situations in the burned portions of Talent and Phoenix, and police are trying to track down people whose whereabouts are unknown. Residents of the high-risk neighborhoods were still being kept out as of late Friday because of safety concerns. Others who evacuated from areas to the west of the burn area were allowed to return home, but many were still without power, and were under orders to boil water because of potential contamination.
Those who owned their homes and have fire insurance should eventually be made whole, or as close to that as possible. Many others are in much worse circumstances.
Manufactured home parks along Bear Creek and Highway 99 suffered severe losses. These were affordable housing for many residents who are now homeless.
Housing was already in short supply before the fires. Now the shortage is even more acute.
Community agencies are responding to the immediate needs as quickly as possible. As often happens in the wake of major disasters, community residents offered an instant outpouring of clothing, blankets and other items, overwhelming the emergency shelter at the Expo with their generosity. Aid workers said they had more than enough to meet the need, and asked that people stop bringing physical donations.
Money is always welcome, and cash donations will continue to be needed for months to come. There is a full list of ways to donate on our website, along with a list of agencies and others offering food, shelter and supplies.
The online crowdfunding site GoFundMe has created a centralized hub for 60 Oregon fundraising campaigns on behalf of those affected by the fires.
The most important message now may be patience. It will take time to reopen evacuated neighborhoods. It will take time to fully assess the damage — how many homes lost, how many people displaced. It will take time — and a great deal of money — to rebuild what was destroyed.
This community has always been resilient and generous in its support for those who suffer misfortune. That self-reliance will now be tested as never before.