In a heartwarming event organized by Firebrand Resiliency Collective, recovery partners and former residents embarked on a bus tour to witness the remarkable recovery of manufactured home parks impacted by the devastating Almeda Fire. The event, made possible with generous support from Umpqua Bank, in collaboration with Rogue Valley Transportation District (RVTD), aimed to showcase the progress and resilience of these communities in the face of adversity.
The tour commenced at Mountain View Estates, where Judy Baalman and her husband, Tony, shared their emotional journey of losing their home in the fire. With deep-rooted attachment to Mountain View Estates, their residence for over 21 years, the Baalmans were determined to return. They expressed their gratitude for being able to rebuild their new home within sight of their previous dwelling, thanks to support from insurance, fire-hardening grants, and the Energy Trust of Oregon.
Mountain View Estates, a community exclusively for residents aged 55 and older, lost 143 out of 164 residences in the fire. However, the tour showcased remarkable progress, with over 50 homes already replaced. The resilience and determination of the residents, not only in Mountain View Estates but also in other affected parks, is quite impressive.
The second stop on the tour was Talent Mobile Estates, a predominantly Latino manufactured housing community. Although the fire destroyed nearly 90 homes, signs of recovery were evident, with two new homes recently arriving and more expected within a year. The Community and Shelter Assistance Corporation (CASA) of Oregon, working locally through Coalición Fortaleza, has worked to transform the park into Southern Oregon’s first resident-owned community. This initiative will provide the residents with ownership of their homes and a share in the underlying land, fostering stability and empowerment.
The final destination of the tour was Pacific Village in Phoenix, where all 82 housing units were consumed by the fire. Rian Antinarelli, the park manager, shared the uplifting news that the park will once again have 82 units, with almost a dozen already in place. The sense of healing and progress felt by the Antinarelli family, who lived in the park before the fire, was palpable. Plans for a playground and a pool, reminiscent of the park’s past, indicated the commitment to rebuilding a strong community. Currently, every family working to purchase units at the park are returning residents.
Former residents attending the tour, like Michael Rhoades, expressed their bittersweet sentiments. Rhoades, who lost his home and cherished journals in the fire, works as a Zone Captain for seniors in Firebrand Resiliency Collective’s Zone Captain program. This program, staffed by fire survivors, facilitates the connection of fellow survivors to recovery resources.
The bus tour not only highlighted the progress made in the recovery efforts but also served as a reminder that many individuals and families are still grappling with the challenges of rebuilding their lives. It brought together fire survivors, local officials, and agency representatives, fostering better awareness and understanding of the ongoing recovery process.
The resilience displayed by these communities is a testament to the strength of the human spirit and the power of unity. As the tour participants witnessed the rebuilding and heard the personal stories of those affected, it became clear that these manufactured home parks are not just places to live; they are tight-knit communities that cannot be replaced.
Through events like this tour, Firebrand Resiliency Collective continues to support and uplift the fire-affected communities, inspiring hope and providing a platform for stories to be shared. The journey towards complete recovery may still be ongoing, but these communities stand strong, determined to rebuild and create a brighter future together.
To get a closer look at the inspiring journey and hear firsthand accounts from the tour, FRC invites you to watch the video of the recovery bus tour here. Additionally, for a more detailed coverage of the tour, you can read the featured article on the Rogue Valley Times newspaper by clicking here.
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