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One of the good days

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Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune FEMA works to install homes Friday at Totem Pole trailer park in Talent.
Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune FEMA gives a tour Friday of homes placed at Totem Pole trailer park in Talent.
25 FEMA manufactured homes are ready for occupants at Totem Pole Trailer Park in Talent

In spite of the drizzle, it was a cheerful Friday morning as more than 30 people gathered to tour one of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s 25 new manufactured home units in Totem Pole Trailer Park in Talent.

People displaced by the Almeda fire are expected to start moving in this week.

Tenants will be able to live in the trailers rent-free, although they will have to pay for utilities. Two more trailers are on the way, officials said.

People can live in the units for up to 18 months from last October — the date the federal disaster declaration was approved.

Talent Mayor Darby Ayers-Flood said that having FEMA sites in Talent was critical so those displaced by the fire could have some semblance of home.

“This has been the mission of the city of Talent from day one, to bring our families home, because we know that if we don't do it and if we don't ask for help to get it done, we're not going to get our families back home,” Ayers-Flood said. “So, this is a particularly emotional day for Talent.”

The FEMA trailers come fully furnished, each with a joint kitchen-living space, one to three bedrooms, bathroom, fridge, microwave, mattresses, running water, heating and air conditioning, and a fire-suppression system.

“It gives the survivor time to get out, should something occur,” said Tony Raines, a coordinating officer for FEMA. “It’s not about my structure, it's about the survivor and meeting their needs. They’ve been through enough, they don’t need to go through it again.”

Oftentimes in disaster relief, the biggest problems come not from the disaster, but from the challenges of different groups and organizations working together, said Stan Thomas, a Mitigation and Recovery Section chief with the Oregon Office of Emergency Management.

Not so much in this case, said Raines, “where the hurdles were the challenges of the actual disaster, not the partnerships coming together.”

The first step to get the Totem Pole site into livable condition was clearing the park and removing concrete and trees. FEMA worked with the state's commercial property debris removal program to clean it up. Then they tested the soil to make sure it was clean. The final step was for the Army Corps of Engineers to move in and set up the trailers.

Over the next couple months, FEMA, state and local officials and contractors are planning to move more than 110 trailers into the Phoenix-Talent area.

Thomas recalled what he told families who had been displaced. “We’re going to have some bad days, and we’re going to have some good days. We’re all going to be frustrated, but we’ll be frustrated together,” Thomas said. “And we’ll get through it.

“Today’s a good day,” he said.

Reach Mail Tribune news intern William Seekamp at wseekamp@rosebudmedia.com.