West Coast Fire Refugees


Southern Oregon

Wildfire Crisis and Home Loss

Repost from the Gofundme page facebook of Eric Simpson, of Phoenix, Oregon

Wildfire refugee.
Windfire refugee.

[Bio] On September 8, 2020, around 2:00 P.M. I was sleeping in my room in Phoenix, Oregon when I was awakened because of an evacuation due to an oncoming fire. I sleep days and work graveyard. A little disoriented, I grabbed a stack of folded laundry, my laptop and a couple of books, got in my car, and left.

Today, the next day, as I write this I am in a Motel 6 in Medford, Oregon. A lot of people lost their homes last night, including me. When I drove by the neighborhood from the freeway, I could see no structures were left. My house, and the houses of all my neighbors, had been flattened to ash.

I know a Phoenix rises from ash, but what happens when a Phoenix burns? I guess it rises again?

Now I find myself suddenly homeless. I did not take the evacuation seriously enough, and left being most of my clothes, my books, my furniture, my keepsakes. I have left my car, about three pairs of pants, two shirts, three pairs of underwear, a few sock, a towel (of course! Don’t panic), my backpack, some face masks, and two books — one on phenomenology, and the second an introduction to Gilles Deleueze.

Now as I begin the process of finding a new place to live, the tentative plan is to stay put in the Motel 6 for a bit while I search. That would cost me almost $1000 for a couple of weeks. I will need to replenish my bathroom hygiene kit. I will need food, and gas. I will need to buy a few things in terms of clothing.

The good news is that I still have a job. So I am budgeting things like food and gas into my regular income. Once I find a place to live, I can probably get by as a minimalist, though a bed would be nice.

Right now I am just seeking some friendly help to get me past the next few weeks and hopefully into a new place as soon as possible.

[Friday, 11Sept20] Update. Half a million people have been evacuated throughout Oregon. My living quarters burned completely to the ground, and all of my things with it. At least a thousand people are displaced locally due to the mass carnage. Today, smoke hangs heavily in the air, blocking out the sun, creating a misty environment on the ground. People are out in the dangerous air, wearing masks to prevent Covid-19 transmission. I am in my Motel room, agitated and anxious, missing the happy optimism of initial denial.

Like so many others, I need a place to stay. Two options fell through in the last two days. I was offered to borrow a camper, and a friend offered to let me park it on his property. Unfortunately, the camper did not have insurance, or a title to get insurance, and Covid-era DMV is slow. I still think that would be a good short-term option until I find more permanent housing. But for now I am at Motel 6 in Medford, which is lucky.

Medford, Oregon has a strange proliferation of motels, and they are all full. I suppose my temporary solution IS the motel 6, though I would prefer something cheaper. I am looking into Red Cross vouchers today. I have some cash, and many people have generously donated to help me during this transition, for which I am very grateful. If we were a civilized nation, we would have no need for gofundme pages, but we are not, and mine can be found here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/house-burned-down-amp-need-transition-help

Yes, the shock has splintered and now I am faced with the reality, and I am aware of my own anger. To the extent that I push it down, I am left feeling depressed amid scenes from a minor apocalypse. It also surfaces as somewhat strong irritability, coupled with anxiety. It doesn’t help that the internet here is atrocious, and when I asked for the Premium plan for $4, offered in all the motel literature, I was told, “we haven’t offered that for a LONG time,” as if I should already know that. At least they gave me a decent rate on the room, whereas I have read reports that displaced victims finding rooms in nearby Grants Pass are being gouged by good, solid capitalists.

I am beginning to look into options for housing with pessimism. The housing situation locally was already unconscionable. Local landlords and management companies are also good, solid capitalists, and it has been a seller’s market for a long time, which is one reason why we already have so many dispossessed locally — though it is of course much more convenient to blame drugs. So it feels daunting. But hey ho, here I go, all my things gone and once the smoke clears, a new day, right? Phoenix burned, but mythologically-speaking, isn’t that sort of the environment specifically where phoenixes thrive?

My heart goes out to all those who are suffering and homeless and dispossessed today, whether their loss happened a couple of days ago like mine did, or years ago. No one deserves to be treated like a transient.

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