Home U.S. News They Survived a Wildfire. They Are Still Waiting to Rebuild

They Survived a Wildfire. They Are Still Waiting to Rebuild

They Survived a Wildfire. They Are Still Waiting to Rebuild

Bruce Bailey had been up all night on Sept. 9 monitoring a fire encroaching on his 43-acre homestead along the Santiam River, just east of Gates, Ore.

As the director of the St. Louis chapter of AmeriCorps for 30 years, he was part of emergency response teams for many disasters, including the Sept. 11 attacks, Hurricane Katrina and the Camp Fire in Northern California in 2018.

So, he was relatively calm as he assessed the risk.

He and his wife, Kathleen Becherer, tried to flee but downed trees blocked their path out, forcing the couple to spend the next few hours in their cow pastures awaiting rescue.

Fire crews eventually cleared a path to them. In the chaos of that night, Ms. Becherer managed to save one of the goats but suffered third-degree burns to her face and hands.

The couple’s property was one of 4,000 homes destroyed in September as fires tore through more than a million acres across Oregon, according to a report by the state’s Office of Economic Analysis.

Their insurance will pay for an apartment while they rebuild, but it has been difficult to find a rental in the communities affected by the fires. They have stayed in hotels while looking for a place to live long term.

But they must care for themselves, too.

“I just need to get to a better place personally,” Mr. Bailey said. “I don’t think I’ve had a really good night’s sleep in six weeks. I want to make sure I don’t become chronically depressed moving forward.”

With encouragement from their doctors, both he and Ms. Becherer plan to start therapy to help process the trauma from the experience.

Mr. Bailey can’t even begin to complete insurance claims until he has a new ID — his wallet was lost in the blaze, and D.M.V. locations are either closed or only available by appointment because of the coronavirus pandemic.

For Mr. Bailey, there is also a new experience to navigate: accepting help. A GoFundMe page set up by their daughter-in-law has raised over $40,000 to help with the recovery.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here