Echo Mountain Fire survivors get new home

Nearly 3 years after the Echo Mountain Fire, a family in Otis watched Wednesday as their new home was placed on its foundation.
Published: Jun. 7, 2023 at 6:19 PM PDT
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OTIS Ore. (KPTV) - Nearly three years after the Echo Mountain Fire tore through Lincoln County neighborhoods in 2020, a family in Otis watched Wednesday as their new home was placed on its foundation.

Scott and Barbara Benedict lost their house in the 2020 wildfire and have been living out of a trailer ever since. It was in October last year, on Barbara’s birthday, the couple learned they were selected as one of the first people to live in a prototype house called “Mass Casitas.” The program is run by Hacienda Community Development Corporation and the goal is to explore how mass timber materials can be used in building affordable housing, and if it can withstand Oregon’s diverse climates. The Benedicts looked on as their new home hung from a crane and lowered into their property where their old home used to stand.

“For us it’s just beginning now we have a home and we have to furnish it,” Barbara said. “It will be fun stuff though. That’ll be the fun part.”

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It will be a few weeks still until they will be able to move into their home. Contractors still have to hook up electricity and plumbing. But watching their new home unwrap from plastic coverings, all the Benedicts can do is think about rebuilding their lives.

“It’s unbelievable, you have no idea what it feels like,” Scott said.

FOX 12 was at Terminal 2 in Portland when the Benedicts got to see their home for the first time. At the January unveiling this year, Gov. Tina Kotek said Hacienda’s ‘Mass Casitas,’ could help reach her goal of building 36,000 new homes each year. The houses look like traditional mobile homes made out of metal, but Mass Casitas are made out of Mass Timber. Leticia Cervantes is the innovation director for Hacienda. She said this material is lighter and more environmentally friendly to produce. The material is similar to plywood in that scraps of wood are compressed together and layered together. She also said, using wood gives a more homey feeling than a traditional mobile home.

“You can perceive in the interior the sensation of being very warm,” Cervantes said. “So this is also something beautiful. One of our objectives is not just to build affordable housing but to try and build beautiful spaces for families to live in.”

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If the five other prototypes are successful, then more mass timber homes could start popping up around Oregon. But for the Benedicts, they’re just happy they can truly start their recovery from the 2020 Wildfires.

“Just don’t give up hope,” Scott said.

“Keep moving forward,” Barbara said. “There are people that care that want to help just keep having hope.”