Effort ongoing to rebuild veteran’s burned home seen in ‘Pig’

Special Reports

Trapper Ben is an icon of the Estacada community

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A grassroots effort is growing in Estacada to build back an 89-year-old veteran’s home after it burned down in July. 

Ben Sudul, better known as Trapper Ben, has been receiving the help of volunteers, neighbors, family and friends after the 100-year-old structure on the iconic Skull Ranch burned down on July 30.

After KOIN 6 News did a story about Sudul and the volunteer fundraising efforts surrounding his struggle, even more community organizations have come forward with ways to help. 

Marc Brooks, Executive Director of Cascade Relief Team, is leading an effort to help clean up the debris left by Ben Sudul’s home after it burned down. September 07, 2021 (KOIN).

The Cascade Relief Team, a nonprofit dedicated to empowering communities following major natural disasters and other devastating events, is organizing a Trapper Ben’s Cleanup event on September 25 to help clear out the charred debris of his former home in order to make room for the structure that will hopefully, eventually replace it. 

Marc Brooks, the Cascade Relief Team’s Executive Director, said he remembered seeing Trapper Ben give one of his talks as a child. Brooks remembered Sudul showing off to the kids his handmade arrowheads, one of which Sudul recently gave to Brooks.

“My sister is blind and I first saw him at a camp for the blind out in Sandy,” he said. Brooks added he grew up in Colton, just a half-hour from Sudul’s home in Estacada, and saw him a few other times growing up at community events.

 “A great man, a veteran, close to home, it just makes sense. You know, as a nonprofit we try to focus on what we call the Three Us, the underinsured, uninsured and underserved communities. And he falls in a couple of those categories,” Brooks said.

Volunteers help clear out debris from Ben Sudul’s burned home. Undated photo courtesy Tracie Udey.

Sudul’s home was not able to be insured due to structural issues. 

Sudul’s friends and family organized a GoFundMe campaign for $40,000, of which about $14,000 has been raised so for, in order to build a new structure on the land he owns in place of the building that burned down. The clean-up effort being organized by Cascade Relief Team itself has a separate GoFundMe attempting to raise $7,000. Any surplus funds collected for the clean-up crowd fund will be donated to the building fund, Brooks said. 

Sudul initially stayed at a neighbor’s house immediately after the fire. However, a trailer was donated for him to temporarily reside in at the ranch. Oregon Propane, a small business located near Estacada, then caught wind of the story and decided to donate a 200-gallon propane tank to equip the trailer. A spokesperson for Oregon Propane told KOIN 6 News over email that the tank should supply at least a year’s worth of fuel for Sudul. 

Sudul’s property was also a shooting location for the recently released Nicolas Cage film, “Pig.” There’s a photo of the trapper gifting the Hollywood star one of his signature arrowheads while crews were filming the movie a couple years ago. 

KOIN 6 News submitted a public records request to the Estacada Fire District under which Sudul’s home resides to see if they determined a cause for the fire, but they did not respond in publication time. However, Sudul believes it was probably an accidental electrical fire, possibly caused by small animals chewing at wires, that occurred when he was asleep. 

For those interested in helping on the cleanup day on September 25, see Cascade Relief Team’s website and fill out the form. Brooks said the cleanup will involve heavy machinery and that the process will likely stretch to September 26 and possibly the following week. Brooks has already performed an asbestos test on the site and determined it was clear of asbestos.

For those who wish to donate to rebuilding Sudul a proper replacement home, check out the friends’ and family’s GoFundMe page

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