Major progress on recovery efforts from 2020 wildfires expected in 2023

TALENT, Ore. – Almost anywhere you go in Talent, you’ll hear the sound of construction.

It’s a sign of progress, as the city rebuilds from the 2020 Almeda Fire.

A process that has taken longer than many had hoped.

“It’s been a long road since September 2020,” Ashland representative Pam Marsh. “Well more than two years at this point. And it seems like recovery should be done by now, but it’s not.”

However, representative Marsh believes 2023 will be the year we see tangible evidence of recovery from the devastating fire.

“We have a number of housing projects and a couple of other community-based projects that now finally have money, they have the go-ahead,” she said. “And I think we’re going to actually see them in construction and in many cases occupied by the end of the year.”

Some of those new projects include the completion of the Royal Oaks manufactured home park, 200 new housing units in Medford, and the construction of Mosaic, a housing development expected to prioritize wildfire survivors, up to 140 families.

But Talent could see some of the biggest additions this year.

“We have about 72 units of low-income coming online very soon,” Talent Mayor Darby Ayers-Flood said. “And then we’ll start to see some real progress made at Talent Mobile Estates where Coalicion Fortaleza has partnered with CASA of Oregon to build a corporative, resident-owned mobile home park there.”

The city is also building a new community makerspace in downtown Talent, after receiving $1.8 million to purchase three acres of land.

Mayor Darby said they lost roughly 400 affordable housing units in the fire.

And so far, very little of those units have been rebuilt.

“There’s almost no recovery on that front yet,” Mayor Darby said. “There’s a lot in progress but certainly not enough.”

Based on projects in the pipeline, Mayor Darby said just around 200, or half of the previous low-income housing units will be rebuilt.

But since the fire, she said roughly 80% of private homes lost are now back.

Although a huge step forward is expected this year, Talent may still be a long way from full recovery.

“I don’t think we’ll see fully recovering in anything less than a full 10 years from the date of the fire,” Mayor Darby said. “But I think we’ll see substantial recovery in the next five years.”

Representative Marsh said FEMA trailers, that are temporarily holding fire survivors are only guaranteed through march.

She expects they will ask for an extension to keep the temporary housing here.

But there’s major concern of a potential gap between when the trailers are eventually gone and when much of the affordable housing will be finished.

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NBC5 News reporter Zachary Larsen grew up in Surprise, Arizona. He graduated from Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism. At ASU, Zack interned at Arizona Sports 98.7FM and Softball America. During his Junior year, Zack joined the ASU Sports Bureau. He covered the Fiesta Bowl, the Phoenix Open and major basketball tournaments. Zack enjoys working out, creative writing, music, and rooting for his ASU Sun Devils.
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