PATTERNS in post-disaster communities


At Close to Home we are working to get our products out into the world – to the people who need them. We’ve spent some time this last fall learning more about the needs for housing in Pateros, WA a community that lost about 100 homes due to the wildfires of this past summer. They are one of the communities impacted by the Carlton Complex wildfires – which impacted numerous communities within the beloved Methow Valley (around 300 homes were lost in total). The recovery efforts are in full swing – especially with the coming of spring and better weather for building.

Eastern Washington already has such a distinct landscape – especially in contrast to that of Western Washington. But after the fires the landscape is somewhat “other worldly”. The current landscape makes one stop and notice the patterns – the carefully planted row after row of fruit trees – orchards that were saved by irrigation – some saved by the efforts of their own orchard workers. But then the landscape turns to one of blackness – and it goes on for as far as the eye can see – until the pattern of another orchard breaks through.

In a landscape where the seasons are predictable, this fire broke all patterns. Yes, the region sees fire – but not the likes of this one. To hear people who saw it, it is described as something that truly had a life of its own – with complete unpredictability. No pattern evident – except that it would continue.

Now the spotlight dulls a bit on the wildfires of this past summer. But the real recovery work continues – people in Pateros and the surrounding areas are putting their lives back together and are helping neighbors, friends and family to do the same. As we’ve seen over and over again, victims are navigating their way toward home replacement. It’s a simpler path when insurance is involved and when the property needs and qualifies for a straightforward stick-built rebuild. But it’s another story when dealing with uninsured properties.

At Close to Home we are exploring financing possibilities – we see time and time again in post-disaster communities that the rental market is negatively impacted – folks who are renting in uninsured properties may be forced to relocate post-disaster to completely different towns – with the post-disaster town then struggling additionally to find employees due to the increased lack of affordable rental housing.

As we continue to study the needs in post-disaster communities we see more patterns. After my visit to Pateros and Brewster, WA, earlier this week, I was reminded of a less-visible pattern that I have noted before. The work required by community members to recover and rebuild is work that is taken on in addition to the regular work that must be done. Community leaders who had been working forty hours a week are now faced with an entirely new and additional job – and countless more hours of work – whether in an official or unofficial capacity.

At Close to Home we are listening directly to the needs of the communities impacted by disasters – and noting the patterns – the story we hear over and over again… people want to move back to their community for further recovery. Helping people to do so is the ultimate goal of our work at Close to Home.


orchardsFire Damage

Tags: Brewster, Carlton Complex, Methow Valley, Pateros, post-disaster housing, WA, WA wildfires