‘Up From The Ashes’: Life after wildfire in Otis

Oregon Coast

Exhibit on display at Lincoln City Cultural Center through May 9

LINCOLN CITY, Ore. (KOIN) — It was just after midnight on the Tuesday after Labor Day when Melynda Small got a knock at the door. Fire. They had to leave.

“When we were leaving we could see the trees exploding with fire,” she said.

The Otis Fire took the homes of 297 families last September, including the home of Melynda and Tye Small.

But the Smalls and other fire victims agreed to photographs of them to be put on display in the “Up From The Ashes” exhibit at the Lincoln City Cultural Center. It’s an effort to have an official recording of a brutal part of Lincoln County history.

“The illustration of the photography and the artwork and items that are pulled from the fire, it’s a way to illustrate what they’ve gone through,” said exhibit curator Krista Eddy. “The artwork tends to be a great healing mechanism and so the combination of the stories and the artwork, it’s a great way to show what’s happened.”

In the presence of such heartbreak, Melynda and Tye Small did the remarkable. Instead of leaving they remained in Otis and started helping people clean up and haul off fire debris and get power and water restored — helping people get their lives back.

The Small Foundation

They’ve started a foundation to fund the work for many people who were either not insured or underinsured. While they’ve put in a lot of work to help others they’ve gotten more satisfaction than they ever imagined.

“This is an amazing community,” Melynda said. “I say it all the time: without the fire happening I would have never known what an amazing community we actually have.”

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