531 Jackson County residents still in hotels after 2020 fires

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Sep. 15—More than 500 people displaced by the Almeda and South Obenchain fires are still living in hotel rooms, and Jackson County officials don't expect those fire survivors to find housing in the next nine months.

There are 531 fire survivors living in 283 hotel rooms, according to Jackson County Administrator Danny Jordan, who spoke Tuesday night at a webinar hosted by State Rep. Pam Marsh and attended by State Sen. Jeff Golden.

A state program is covering the cost of the survivors' hotel stays through June 2022, but Jordan told Marsh and Golden at the webinar that he expects the county will need aid for fire survivors beyond the cutoff date.

"I do not believe that's going to be enough time," Jordan said. "I believe we're going to have to go back and ask the Legislature for more help based on the pace of the replacement of the lost residential inventory."

Jordan told the legislators at the public meeting that local trailer parks are open and ready for new manufactured homes, but the parks are struggling to get them.

"The manufactured homes are timed to not be replaced — based on the capacity to build them — for a year and a half to two years," Jordan said.

The Almeda fire severely damaged or destroyed 18 manufactured home parks in Phoenix and Talent when it burned through the centers, according to Jordan.

Jordan said the exact number of people rendered homeless Sept. 8, 2020, may never be known, but was likely in the thousands.

"We believe that at the county we'll never fully know the number of displaced survivors, but it's estimated that between 7,500 and 8,500 Rogue Valley residents were left homeless literally within a matter of hours," Jordan said, adding that 200 businesses were also burned to the ground.

At the height of the Labor Day fires, more than 70,000 Jackson County residents were under Level 2 or Level 3 evacuation orders.

On the first night of the fire, 2,000 people were sheltered at the Jackson County Expo — a number that does not include people in the parking lots, he said.

Reach web editor Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTCrimeBeat.

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