Echo Mountain: A community recovering
By size alone, the 2,500-acre Echo Mountain Complex Fire was tiny compared to the massive Labor Day wildfires that burned in the Cascades and southern Oregon, but its localized impact on the small coastal town of Otis was just as devastating.
Located about four miles east of Lincoln City, Otis is a small bedroom community along the northern section of the Salmon River. Fueled by coastal gale winds reaching more than 50 miles per hour, the fires that tore through this community last September destroyed about half of Otis’ 1,200 structures, including nearly 300 homes and the Salmon River Mobile Village.
“When I first came into the area at Echo Mountain and seeing the devastation and hearing people’s stories…it’s really overwhelming,” explained Debris Management Task Force On-Scene Incident Commander Drake McKee. He hopes that by clearing the ash and debris and preparing sites for rebuilding that the Task Force can help people close this “horrible” chapter and move forward.
“Our goal as the task force is really to help out the community to give them a place to start and rebuild,” McKee explained.
Led by Oregon-based construction contractor K&E Excavating, Inc., private property cleanup work in Otis began back in January. The Echo Mountain Fire area was the first fire corridor for Task Force mobilization, but, as Lincoln County Commissioner Kaety Jacobson explains, a statewide emergency cleanup operation like the one Oregon is currently facing takes time:
“What I always say is there’s a lot of things that happen behind the scenes, but that we’re constantly thinking of our survivors and that you’re not forgotten and that we remember you.”
With the debris and hazard trees removed and the environmental testing completed on almost all of the 150 private property sites that opted into the state-run cleanup program, K&E and their subcontractors – also Oregon based, family-run firms – are preparing to demobilize from Otis and move on to other fire-impacted areas of the state.
McKee reflected on the months-long process nearing completion:
“To see this community come together in a time of such loss has been fabulous. To see people starting to rebuild…gives a light on where this community is going to.”
While the Task Force operations are finishing up in Lincoln County, we recognize that the community still has a long path to recovery. Residents can visit North Lincoln Rebuilds for information and resources to support the community. Residents and those wishing to support the community can also visit the Salmon River Grange. Task Force Crews will be returning to Otis in the coming months to complete a few homesites that signed on later into the program and to help the county with some much-needed road work in the area.
Oregon-based contractors working for the Task Force’s recovery efforts in Lincoln County include:
All Aspects Environmental and Demolition
Anderson’s Erosion Control
Mountain View Tree Services
RK Concrete Construction