Almeda survivors at ‘stand-still’ with rebuilding their home

TALENT, Ore. – Six months after the Almeda Fire, survivors are rebuilding a community that was burned to the ground. Now two of those families told NBC5 News they can’t keep building, at least for right now.

Fire survivors desperate for answers as they try to rebuild after the horrific Almeda Fire.

“We just want to go home,” said Michael Biggs.

Dawn Mellon and Michael Biggs lived in their Talent home for over 20 years.

“I never imagined it would come down I-5, come through town. We just never imagined that could be possible,” said Mellon.

The fire burned their home. They said their insurance company gave them a year to rebuild.

“We have until September 1, 2021, to have a place to move back into. We decided not to wait for FEMA to clean-up because don’t have that much time. The people who are waiting [for] their properties are sitting untouched,” said Mellon.

Immediately the couple took action, working with a contractor, testing the soil, and getting the proper permits.

“We waited for weeks, and then weeks, and a month. Six weeks later we’re like what’s going on,” said Mellon.

Little did they know their neighbors, Carol and Fredric Berger were facing similar issues.

“Jamie McCloud-Skinner called us and said I’m sorry to tell you this, but there have been some changes. You may not be able to rebuild anything on your property,” said Carol.

The change, the two couples said comes down to zoning. They were told their properties are in or next to a flood plain.

“The house right next door to ours has permits and is rebuilding. I don’t understand that. There’s a house on the creek across the street from us that is almost rebuilt. There’s a property across the street that is in the process of being rebuilt,” said Mellon.

Mellon and Biggs showed us a copy of the zoning map from FEMA. On it, their home is just outside the flood plain zone.

The Berger’s property is in the flood plain zone, but they told NBC5 they’re willing to work with the city. They just want to be home.

“If it needs to be higher elevation because of the flood plain okay we’ll make it higher elevation. Our contractor assures us that can easily happen. So to say you cannot build your house again on your property seems. Well, it robbed me of sleep last night,” said Frederic.

While the deadline to finish the work looms, both couples say they were supposed to meet with a FEMA representative to evaluate the zone, but they say he never showed.

“We never imagined that when this disaster happened that the thing standing in our way would be permits,” said Mellon.

NBC5 reached out to both the City of Talent and FEMA for comment Monday evening on this situation. We are still waiting to hear back.

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