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Canyon Creek residents rebuilding after the flames

PENDLETON — When a massive thunderstorm rolled into Canyon Creek in August, Dean and Courtney Fox didn't know it would reduce their home to ashes.

But the lightning sparked two fires that later merged into a massive wildfire and began encroaching on their John Day-area house, reported the East Oregonian.

Even after deputies urged the couple to leave, Dean Fox insisted on staying near the house until he was sure it couldn't be saved. He didn't last long.

"The fire came through the trees — it was just rolling," Fox said. "It was hot and intense."

The house "just ignited," he said. He left to join Courtney and when they returned, all that remained was bricks, metal and a ceramic piggy bank.

The Foxes were only one of about 40 families who lost their homes to the Canyon Creek Fire, and home designers, engineers, contractors and public agencies have united to spare them as much hassle as possible as they rebuild.

Anyone rebuilding a structure destroyed in the Canyon Creek Fire will have their fees waived, according to Assistant Grant County Planner Shannon Spring. Those applicants will also get a fee waiver and streamlined permit process from the state Department of Environmental Quality.

The fast-track rebuilding option was organized by Pendleton drafter and designer Gary Kopperud.

He was in awe at the destruction when he met with three Canyon Creek families, including the Foxes, a couple weeks ago.

"There was nothing combustible anywhere in sight," he said. "Everything was totally vaporized. There was white ash everywhere."

With no surviving beams or rafters, we "were starting with a clean sheet of paper," explained the designer.

Nothing about the building process will be different than normal, said Kopperud -- it will just take place more quickly.

While in Canyon Creek, he met with contractors, the building inspector, civil engineers and clients in what he described as "battlefront consultations."

The Foxes' foundation will be poured next week and Kopperud thinks they could be back home by Christmas.

"I am amazed at the resiliency of the people," said Kopperud of his Canyon Creek clients. "One minute they had a house and the next they had absolutely nothing."

In this Aug. 14, 2015, file photo, the Canyon Creek Complex fire burns near John Day. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS.