Environment

Latter-Day Saints Unite, Rebuild After Devastating Oregon Wildfires

 It has been a slow, difficult and emotional rebuilding process for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Medford, Oregon whose homes were destroyed by the devastating wildfires.

Despite the challenges, Latter-day Saints in the area have incredible hope, and have united together to rebuild as neighbors and as a community.

The first of two major wildfires in the Medford area broke out on Sept. 8.

The fires destroyed 2,483 homes and 173 commercial structures, leaving thousands of people homeless.

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MEDFORD, Ore. — It has been a slow, difficult and emotional rebuilding process for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Medford, Oregon whose homes were destroyed by the devastating wildfires.

Despite the challenges, Latter-day Saints in the area have incredible hope, and have united together to rebuild as neighbors and as a community.

The first of two major wildfires in the Medford area broke out on Sept. 8.

The fires destroyed 2,483 homes and 173 commercial structures, leaving thousands of people homeless.

A short 10- to 15-minute drive south of Medford puts you into neighborhoods that look apocalyptic, with everything turned into ash.

“Most of the fire personnel basically went into a lifesaving mode, where they were assisting with the evacuation more than actually fighting the fire, because it was spreading at a rate that you could not stop it,” said John Vile, emergency operations director for the Jackson County. “We ended up with three people perishing. That’s unfortunate, but frankly, that is a miracle.”

They lost 73 homes in the Bear Creek Ward alone. One of the families in that ward who lost everything was Misty Pantle, her three children and her sister Tammy Johnson.

Pantle said it was their dream home.

“We lost our entire home, everything that you can think of that’s normal in a home,” said Misty Pantle.

“When my dad passed away, I got to have some of his tools, so those have been rough to lose,” said an emotional Tammy Johnson.

Considering all that they lost, Misty, Tammy and their family said they feel very blessed to have a place to live — a three-bedroom apartment they managed to get into at a time when Medford was experiencing a severe housing shortage.

“Three hours after we found out our house was gone, we were offered this place,” said Tammy. “So we are feeling blessed.”

The apartment was used by college students over the years, so the carpet was trashed. Latter-day Saints jumped in to help.

“Our stake president stepped in and was able to get a flooring person in here. Many of the members helped put the flooring in for us,” said Misty.

Helping those who lost everything is still a 24/7 operation for the ward and stake. It’s all being played out inside a huge barn that belongs to Alison Allen, the compassion service leader in the Bear Creek Ward.

“Our barn has become a haven lately,” said Allen as she walked around the barn, showing all that had been donated by people in Oregon and across the country.

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