PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Melynda and Tye Small are not good at asking for help. But after two years of helping members of their Otis community rebuild after the Echo Mountain Complex Fire, the community thought it was about time the Smalls received some help of their own.
The Smalls were one of nearly 300 households who lost their homes when the fire devastated the small community of Otis, east of Lincoln City, in the summer of 2020.
However, they didn’t let their loss stop them from doing everything they could to help their neighbors. As soon as they were able, Tye and Melynda began working with other volunteers to help clear debris from at least 80 properties.
Melynda said the work helped distract her from her own tragedy, so she kept doing it. Her work didn’t go unnoticed.
“To witness a group of people devote so much effort towards other people’s properties that were burned and not ask anything in return and continually do it day in and day out – I mean, they were there more than we were there,” said Jeremy Page, co-owner of Page Concrete Construction in Otis.
Page said the Smalls were strangers when he first met them, but over time he came to know them well as they worked together to clear properties and welcome people to their new homes.
The Smalls spent months living in hotel rooms with their three children after the fire, and for a while Tye’s father lived with them, too.
Eventually, they purchased a fifth wheel camper to live in and Page let them stay on his property.
Tye and Melynda continued to welcome neighbor after neighbor back to their rebuilt homes and eventually, Page told them it was time for them to have a new home of their own.
“We were at a house delivery in the pouring down rain and [Page] was helping us – the semi got stuck in the mud and it was dark. I was like, ‘Where do you want me?’ and he said, ‘In your house,’” Melynda said, remembering the moment Page committed to getting them into a new home.
The Small’s home that was destroyed in the fire was under-insured, and after purchasing the fifth wheel for $20,000, they didn’t have much savings left for a down payment on a house.
That didn’t stop Page. He’s donating the time and labor, and several nearby businesses are donating the materials, to build the Smalls a new home.
Hampton Lumber in Tillamook donated the lumber, another business donated windows and Cornerstone Homes and Crawford Custom Construction are donating labor to help construct the house. Three Rocks Electric and Plumbing has also agreed to do the electric and plumbing at material cost.
Crews laid the foundation about 9 months ago and within the last few months, they’ve built the frame and rolled the trusses. Before Christmas, Page hopes to have the building sided and have the windows installed to make sure it’s watertight.
Page and the other donors are glad to help, but the cost of materials is expensive and with rising inflation, they’ve only grown pricier in the past year. He’s hoping some people will be willing to donate to the cause to help cover the cost of building the home, so he started a GoFundMe for the Smalls.
“It’s going to happen one way or another, but it’d be nice if a handful of people would help out a little bit with it,” he said.
He expects that even with the donated labor, it will cost about $35,000.
Melynda, who’s admittedly bad at asking for help, said she’d also appreciate people’s prayers.
“We appreciate so much everything that Jeremy and everybody in the community has done for us thus far. It means a lot. I cried when the trusses got delivered. I ugly cried. It was a good day,” Melynda said.
She said her family has been extremely excited to watch the progress made on their home and even though it won’t be done in time for the holidays, she still has big plans.
“I want to put a Christmas tree in there. It would make our family so happy,” she said.
Once the home is finished, she wants to host a big block party and invite everybody from the community to celebrate.
Page said it’s been a blessing to know the Page family and although the wildfire was a catastrophic event for everyone in Otis, it also brought the community together. He said he doesn’t plan to move away from the small town any time soon and looks forward to the day when the community feels whole again.
“My goal in it is just to make sure that everybody that’s going to end up back in Echo Mountain/Panther Creek that we can do everything we can to get them back in,” he said.
As of Nov. 23, Page’s GoFundMe for the Smalls had raised more than $3,000. He has a goal of reaching $25,000.