Wildfire cleanup in Otis organized by man who lost home

Wildfires

He hopes the cleanup effort will continue after he returns to work

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A team of volunteers is working to clean up one of the hardest-hit areas from this year’s wildfire season. Among the organizers of the effort is a man who lost his own home to the Echo Mountain Complex Fire in the Otis area.

On Saturday, Associate Pastor Corey Rivera was cleaning up his own property, and plans to help more than 20 neighbors who are in need of cleanup help on their properties as well. The hum of chainsaws echoed through the properties off of N. Pony Trail—an area that Rivera said was completely destroyed by the fire.

Associate Pastor Corey Rivera shares his experience evacuating with his family from the Echo Mountain Fire Complex in September. He has now organized a cleanup effort for the community. October 24, 2020 (KOIN)

“Pony trail is the only street where every single home got lost,” said Rivera.

The father of seven said the day before the fire came, the family had gotten together for a barbeque. Smoke was in the air, but according to him, it didn’t appear to be a concerning situation at that point. They went to bed that night, and early the next morning they awoke to law enforcement pounding in their doors and windows, yelling for them to evacuate.

“About 11, we went to bed,” recalled Rivera. “It got to the point where it was scary. I don’t know what the reports were—everything was moving so loud. About 1:30, I was asleep, Oregon State Police and fire marshals knock on the windows—’Get up, get out now.'”

He said the family escaped with just a couple of laundry baskets full of clothes and their social security cards. Along with their home, they lost irreplaceable photos and other family treasures in the fire.

“All the baby stuff is gone, all the photos are gone, second, third-generation stuff,” said Rivera.

But Rivera said he and his wife will get through this as a team, with the biggest message to remember God’s love.

“We can buy most of this again. Memories are lost, but there are seasons of life,” said Rivera.

Around 100 volunteers joined Rivera in the cleanup effort, lending heavy equipment, meals, and man-power. One man drove almost six hours south from Everson, Washington in help out.

“I got an email from a couple of guys at church that said, ‘Hey, we’re putting a crew together,” said volunteer Colin Elenbaas. “It’s for the people that live here. It’s complete devastation from what is looks like to me—just lost everything really.”

Rivera said he will be working on cleanup through the 31st of October, having taken some time off from work in order to get the project going. He hopes others will step in to help continue the cleanup after he returns to work next week in Lincoln City.

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