Excessive value of lumber, constructing supplies halts rebuilding for some Oregon wildfire survivors


A shortage of supply coupled with high demand caused construction costs to skyrocket during the pandemic.

DETROIT, Oregon. – It’s been about nine months since forest fires burned more than a million acres in Oregon last September.

While some survivors have begun rebuilding, others simply cannot afford the cost of building materials, which skyrocketed during the pandemic due to supply shortages coupled with high demand.

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

There in the city of Detroit, Michele Tesdal and her family still live in a fifth wheel on their property on the mountainside after flames destroyed their home.

“At the moment we are trying to get offers for all parts of the house construction,” said Tesdal. “We have problems getting offers.”

The skyrocketing prices for building materials made it difficult for many to rebuild after the fires.

“We have about 50% of our insurance that covers our remodeling so we need to take out a construction loan. So we have to be careful when soliciting bids, ”said Tesdal.

CONNECTED: Some Oregon forest fire survivors are rebuilding homes

At the moment, wood costs three times what it was during the pandemic. Metal, dry well and equipment costs have also increased, according to Josh Lehner, an economist in the state of Oregon.

“You are talking about 25-30% higher construction costs if you build today,” said Lehner.

“Income is rising, the demand for housing is rising,” he added. “And if you have this shutdown on the supply side of the construction industry, even for a few months, when the demand is behind the eight.”

This means bottlenecks and a lack of availability of building materials.

Lehner said with the higher prices and the resumption of production at the sawmills, demand is expected to cool, but it is taking longer than most people, including burn victims like Michele Tesdal, had hoped.

CONNECTED: Supply, demand and COVID-19: The price of wood has almost quadrupled in the last year

“We’ll just go ahead and try to at least lay the foundation,” she said.

Tesdal said although times are stressful, she is doing her best to remain optimistic.

“You go back and say what’s the worst that happened to us? Well, we didn’t die in the fire and we live out here on the mountain and that’s good.”