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High cost of lumber, building materials halts rebuilding for some Oregon wildfire survivors

A supply shortage coupled with high demand has sent construction costs skyrocketing during the pandemic.

DETROIT, Ore. — It's been about nine months since wildfires burned more than a million acres in Oregon last September. 

While some survivors have started to rebuild, others simply can't afford to because of the cost of building materials, which has spiked during the pandemic because of supply shortages coupled with high demand. 

The Santiam Canyon in Marion County was one of areas hit hardest during the 2020 wildfire season. 

There in the town of Detroit, Michele Tesdal and her family are still living in a fifth wheel on their mountainside property after flames leveled their home.

"Right now we're trying to go for bids for all the parts of building a house," Tesdal said. "We're having trouble with getting bids."

The skyrocketing price of building materials has made it tough for many to rebuild after the fires. 

"We have about 50% of our insurance covering our rebuild so we'll have to go for a construction loan. So we have to be diligent about getting bids," Tesdal said.

RELATED: Some Oregon wildfire survivors rebuilding homes

Right now, lumber costs three times what it did during the pandemic. The cost of metal, dry well and appliances have gone up as well, according to Josh Lehner, an economist with the state of Oregon. 

"They're talking about 25-30% increases in the overall cost of construction if you're building today," Lehner said. 

"Incomes are up, demand for housing is through the roof," he added. "And so when you have this shutdown on the supply side of the construction industry, even just for a couple months where the demand, it put is behind the eight ball."

That means shortages and lack of availability for building materials. 

Lehner said with the higher prices and with lumber mills ramping up production again, the demand is expected to cool down, but it's taking longer than most people, including fire victims like Michele Tesdal, had hoped. 

RELATED: Supply, demand and COVID-19: The price of lumber has nearly quadrupled in the last year

"We're just going to keep on going and try to put the foundation in at least," she said. 

Tesdal said even though times are stressful, she's doing her best to stay optimistic. 

"You back up and say, what's the worst that's happened to us? Well we didn't die in the fire and we're out here living on the mountain and that's good."

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