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Family moves into new home as Detroit rebuilds after wildfires

Volunteer architects with NW Rebuild Project aims to help families replaces their homes following Oregon's destructive wildfires.

DETROIT, Ore. — Community groups and residents are pushing ahead with rebuilding efforts in areas devastated by Oregon's 2020 wildfires.

Detroit, near Detroit Lake, was one such town. It was largely destroyed in the Beachie Creek Fire.

"Very sad and tragic thing," said Michelle Warden, who lost her family home in Detroit. "I've lived in this community for 50 years."

The fire left people like her with few options. Some had to move. Others chose to rebuild. Charlie Carr aims to help.

"Most people know how to buy a house, but not build one," said Carr, president of NW Rebuild Project, a nonprofit group of volunteer architects who came together to help Oregon wildfire victims.

"My thought was, three months after that, where are these people going to be?" Carr said. "They still don't have a home."

The nonprofit helps provide custom home designs, building tips, and help navigating grants and other funding options to reduce construction costs.

RELATED: Detroit Lake has reached 'full' levels for the first time in two years

Michelle Mueller is one of the architects and designers who helps run NW Rebuild. She said building a home is challenging, especially for people who have gone through disaster and trauma.

"To add that on top just seemed unfair," Mueller said. "We believe in service and helping people." 

"These guys have full-time jobs and do this on the weekends and evenings, and they do it because they care," Warden said.

After about 16 months of collaboration with NW Rebuild, the Warden family received keys last weekend to their newly rebuilt home.

Client families have to come up with construction costs, but those costs are drastically reduced by the work NW Rebuild puts in.

"I'm just ecstatic, honestly, just so grateful," Warden said. "These are the most wonderful human beings I've met in my life."

As the Wardens settle into their new home, other signs of life are showing in Detroit as well. Saturday, community organizations celebrated the grand opening of a new community center.

"I'm hopeful, really hopeful," Warden said. "We now have a place for our kids to come home to or our grandkids to come home to."

NW Rebuild takes donations online and is seeking architects and designers willing to donate time and skills to ongoing wildfire recovery efforts.

RELATED: Marion County pursues more affordable housing in Santiam Canyon

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