Retired firefighter loses hand-made home during Golden Fire

BONANAZA, Ore.– A 64 year-old retired firefighter lost his home in the Golden Fire near Bonanza.

But this home meant much more than that to Jim Vaughan and his family.

Vaughan had been building this house by hand since 1983.

He was working on installing the last piece to complete the house, when the Golden Fire started.

Neighbor Robert Howard said, “I sat in my car, and watched my best friend’s cabin burn to the ground.”

Jim Vaughan worked as a firefighter for 25 years across Southern Oregon for the forest service and BLM.

But in his spare time, Vaughan built a cabin in the woods outside of Bonanza, completely by hand.

For decades, the cabin took up most of his time outside of work, which is how it got its name, the “hobby house”.

Vaughan daughter Jessie said, “it’s taken over 40 years to build this, and everything he’s done, he’s done by hand and he cares for the trees. He knows every single one of his trees and every single spot on his property he loves.”

Jessie grew up in the “hobby house” and says it was nearly complete this summer.

She said her dad was working to install a septic tank, when the Golden Fire started late last month.

She said Vaughan was helping firefighters warn his neighbors as it spread.

“He was one of the first to help on scene,” Jessie said, “despite the fact that he’s retired he still likes to come out and help everyone else and let everyone know ‘hey there’s a fire, be careful.'”

As the fire grew, it became more likely that the “hobby house” wouldn’t survive.

Vaughan said the entire family was devastated when their neighbor called to tell them the house didn’t make it.

“We just cried and sobbed and held each other. It was really sad,” Jessie said, “we’re still not quite over that.”

Because the house wasn’t considered complete when it burned down, Vaughan’s insurance company said it won’t cover it.

Now, the family has set up a GoFundMe to help Jim get back on his feet.

Jessie said the support so far from the community has been tremendous.

“A lot of people know and have seen the ‘hobby house’ and know how legendary and beautiful it was and people are just heartbroken,” Jessie said, “people know how much he loved this house and how much all of us loved this house.”

Jim Vaughan suffered a stroke nearly a year ago and declined to appear on camera, but he wrote a statement to us saying “to all the firefighters, thank you for what you do and be safe.”

If you would like to donate, you can find a link to the GoFundMe here.

*KOBI-TV NBC5 does not guarantee money deposited to this account will be applied for the benefit of the person or persons named as beneficiaries. If you are considering making a donation, you should consult your own advisors, and otherwise proceed at your own risk.

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Former NBC5 News reporter Derek Strom is from Renton, Washington. He recently graduated from the Edward R. Murrow College of Communications at Washington State University with a degree in Broadcast News and a minor in Sports Management. He played in the drumline with the WSU marching band. These days, he plays the guitar and piano. Derek is a devoted fan of the Mariners, Seahawks, and Kraken.
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