PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Friday’s rain falling on the Beechie Creek Fire was a welcome relief for hundreds of people who have been smoked out for well over a week — and out on Highway 22, there is something else likely to delight local residents.
The owner of the Gingerbread House, a local landmark along the Santiam Highway in Mehama, is reopening this weekend. Life won’t be back to normal for some time — but the fact that the famous old burger joint survived the fire is a big comfort many people could use.
It is a cleanup day for Gingerbread House Owner Diane Pantovich and her two helpers — scrubbing away ash — spraying down menus and trying to get the place ready. The reopening coincides with the first significant rain that fell in the area early Friday morning and for Diane and many others — the rain is the first sign of normal she’s seen in over a week.
“It’s a lot of relief. A lot of relief and then you have that bittersweet feeling that we have everything and so many people lost everything,” said Pantovich. “I’m thankful for the fire department and whoever came over and saved our little corner.”
The Gingerbread House was built in 1953. It was surrounded by trees until about 15 years ago when a storm blew them down. The trees had spared the restaurant — then the wildfire flames spared the building last week.
Diane says community support has kept her little slice of heaven alive. Now she says it’s time for her to reopen and return the favor by helping with the Santiam Canyon Relief Fund.
“I want to get in touch with them and have something up here for this canyon,” she said. “They’ve given us so much — it’s time to pay back.”