We Survived the Oregon Road Fire

WE SURVIVED
the Oregon Road Wildfire

This wildfire in rural northern Elk WA began on August 18, 2023 in the early afternoon. It was a hot and extremely fast-moving fire pushed around with wind gusts exceeding 45 MPH. We know, because we were there.

W House
August 19, 2023

The Medical Lake fire started at the same time and all air support that was working the Elk “Oregon Road” fire was removed and sent to Medical Lake. Air support was not split up between the two fires, it was all moved to Medical Lake ONLY. The firefighter ground crews in our area of  Elk (Oregon Rd) were told to “stand down and let it burn” – “only handle the evacuations”.After the fire we had to log the destroyed trees to prevent insect infestation.

Nelson Creek Fire

Three years ago the Nelson Creek Fire was stopped only 650 feet from our home/property. Courageous firefighters were astonishing with ground forces with a full company of air support. In our neighborhood all of our homes were saved, losing only outbuildings. Their heroic air show was a dance I will never forget. Helicopters, jets, prop planes, and ground crews swooping in and out, accomplished a miracle, YAY!

After the Nelson Creek Fire’s close call, Pete and I checked our home insurance and increased it to cover the cost of rebuilding if it happened again. This made our bills higher but we thought it was worth it. Now, we are in the process of negotiating to receive that insurance coverage. At some point, we should win the ARM WRESTLING MATCH with the insurance carrier, then we can proceed. So, our belts tighten up and we do what we can do until then.

Elk is a community I love. It is full of strong and opinionated “freedom-loving” people. We work things out for ourselves, thank you. And we know our neighbors.

Five months after the wildfire, many of us have lost absolutely everything and are still displaced but we will not be giving up. Dealing with the loss of all of our STUFF is hard, but even if you see a tear leak out of my eye, I will not be stopped. The sun keeps coming up each morning and setting each night. We are still required to go to work or attend school, and take care of the kids and animals.

We shiver as we continue to experience the arrival of below-zero temperatures this winter.

 

Town Hall

town Hall 01Last night’s “Town Hall” meeting in Elk at the Country Church of the Open Bibler, was well attended and allowed a lot of informal discussion to take place. We were able to discuss obstacles being encountered by victims during the recovery from the wildfire. Being a fire victim myself, I left the meeting with some weight and frustration lifted off of my shoulders. There was hope for the future replacing it.

The 2 speakers addressed subjects in their own professional fields and then fielded many questions from the locals in attendance.

Leonard Christian

House of Representatives – 4th Legislative District

Christian apologised that in Olympia they had been told that the asbestos testing was being paid for by the state and it has not. Many people responded saying what it had cost them.

town Hall 02He understands the importance of stopping the new building codes requiring no propane allowances in our reconstruction. Heat pumps do not work well in the colder regions (below 34 degrees), or rural regions that lose power frequently.

town Hall 08This mandate needs to be fought, and the best way to prevent it from being passed into law in March 2024 is to flood Gov Jay Inslee with emails and phone calls stating your point of view. Contact him frequently, and ask all of your friends and relatives to do the same. His contact information is below.

We do not want Propane to be Outlawed!

  • Write
    Governor Jay Inslee
    Office of the Governor
    PO Box 40002
    Olympia, WA 98504-0002
  • Fax
    360-753-4110

Tom Konis

the Spokane County Assessor

Konis explained the process that was used to speed up the zero valuation determination on single-family dwellings that were destroyed and damaged. Using a Google imagery-fly-over system they identified destroyed structures. Their office filled out the forms requesting adjustments for the taxpayers. Most people have already gotten a notice showing this reduced valuation and some have already received a refund of overpaid taxes.

town Hall 06A dairy farmer asked why his barn was not included as a loss, along with all of the hay in it. Evidently, only single-family homes are eligible for this tax break. A change in this law is needed. Farmland, timberland and livestock feed storage are real considerations here.

People with acreage already zoned in forest reserve taxes asked if they would now be penalized for “back taxes” since the timber was destroyed before the end of the time period signed up for. No. More questions were brought up about reforestation assistance.

The question was asked about why land parcels that are burnt are being valued the same as property not burnt. Many questions and many answers were discussed. Konis explained that sales of burnt land would have to occur for them to be able to see if the price of that burnt parcel actually decreases from wildfire destruction. Another question was asked about being unable to sell a burnt property and no solution was presented.

Heat Pumps or Natural Gas

Heat Pumps vs Natural Gas

A Heat pump or Natural Gas Heating system comparison is like comparing apples with oranges. Heat pumps are not an effective source of heat for colder climates (temperatures below 34 degrees). There is no comparison.

Propane & Natural Gas Restrictions are unconstitutional.

Bills mandating the use of gas or propane for heat, cooking, or driving are illegal! We who reside in the rural areas of Washington state see the true insanity in these measures. We consistently experience long-term and frequent electrical outages in some of the coldest locations. A Seattle dictator is attempting to take away the cleanest and most efficient source of heating, and cooking for us. It is just totally ridiculous. Heat pumps are expensive and ineffective in extreme cold (temperatures under 34 degrees), and they require more electricity from an already overtaxed grid.

Building Industry Association of Washington

‘revised effective date for 2021 codes is March 15, 2024’:

Washington State Building Code Council SBCC@des.wa.gov

This Oct 31, 2023 link states that
“public comment  is being accepted through Nov 22 on the new building code language…the state Building Code Council is expected to vote Nov 28 on whether to adopt the new policies.”:

AXIOS (Liberal) Newsletter in Seattle

The challenge in mandating electric heating in Washington state…

Clean Energy Transition Institute

In colder parts of the state like eastern Washington, the recent building code updates allow new home builders to install backup systems that run on natural gas to provide heating in the absolute coldest temperatures when a heat pump is no longer as efficient.

We get to stand the cost of installing 2 heating systems so we don’t freeze to death when it gets below 34 degrees, which is all winter long for us. There is no need to remain economical or efficient is there?

3-Year Tax Break

3-Year Tax Break

Three-Year Break

ESB 5454 The following paragraph is on the 3rd page of this downloadable pdf.  Three Year Break.

ESB 5454 Legislative changes for qualifying single-family dwellings damaged by a natural disaster

  • Engrossed Senate Bill 5454 (ESB 5454) amends RCW 84.70.010 regarding destroyed property claims for improvements that were damaged or destroyed by natural disasters and creates a property tax exemption for the amount of new construction that replaces the qualifying single-family dwelling damaged or destroyed as a result of a qualifying natural disaster. The bill:
    Establishes a new three-year property tax exemption for improvements to single-family dwellings that have been damaged, and reduced in assessed value by more than 20%, due to a natural disaster that occurred on or after Aug. 31, 2020, beginning with taxes levied for collection in 2022. Qualifying properties must be located in a disaster area declared by the governor or a county legislative authority.

    • Limits the value of the exemption to the total amount of the reduction in value due to the damage to, or destruction of, the property. This amount is determined by deducting the value of the property after it was damaged from the value of the property before it was damaged. This exemption may also apply to a complete rebuild of a totally destroyed home.
    • Requires property owners to apply for the exemption with the county assessor prior to initiating construction of the new improvement. If a taxpayer initiated new construction prior to the effective date of this legislation, July 25, 2021, they must apply for the exemption by
      Oct. 1, 2021. To qualify, the dwelling must be owned by the same person(s), or their relatives, who owned the property at the time it was negatively impacted by the natural disaster.
    • Prohibits the county assessor from approving any applications for exemption received after June 30, 2026.
    • Requires the value of the improvements to be considered as new construction as though the property was not exempt for levy purposes under chapters 36.21 and 84.55 RCW.

A new exemption application form for homes damaged by a qualifying natural disaster is available on our website at dor.wa.gov. For more information regarding destroyed property, please refer to the Destroyed Property FAQ.

Tax Refunds!

We already paid all of our taxes for 2023 at the beginning of the year.

When???

Can we expect to receive the refunds for overpaid taxes on our homes that were destroyed on August 18, 2023 in the Oregon Road wildfire in Elk?

It is DOR tax form 64 0003

Tax Values

Before the fireLAND TAX VALUES

Does your burnt-out vacant land have the same tax value as a same-sized parcel that was not destroyed in the Oregon Road wildfire? They are being taxed at the same rates.

LandValueBurnt with info about this to take with you to the TOWN HALL MEETING ON TUESDAY, NOV 28th at 6pm.  The Country Church of the Open Bible.

After the fire

The Spokane County Assessor’s Office says, there will be no adjustments to lower tax rates for parcels in the wildfires.
Can we sell the “before” property for the same price as the “after” property?

NOT LIKELY!

There will be years of backbreaking physical labor needed to replant enough to restore the beauty of our forest lands destroyed in Elk. Not many buyers will sign up for this kind of job. Selling for a full-value purchase price is really not likely for the properties that are burned out. Our taxes on the land should reflect the “true and fair market value” accordingly. Our taxes should be reduced as we have to work to restore the forest over the next 3 years.

Avoid Increased Building Costs

Do you want to avoid increased building costs involved with the “NEW BUILDING CODES”? Then it is imperative that you accomplish the following steps BEFORE OCTOBER 19TH, 2023.

New building codes will be going into effect on October 29, 2023. One of the most dangerous parts of those new codes is the;

…removal of your right to freely choose to use propane as a source of energy and/or heat in your home.

In our community, this edict could easily be a death sentence in the middle of winter. We historically loose electrical power for extended periods of time during sub-zero freezing weather.

Steps

  1. Using the “destroyed property” reduced (form), we will signup to get the tax valuation. See a previous blog article explaining thought on that, 3 -Year-Tax-Break for Disaster Victims
  2. We have already drawn a plot diagram of our land and marked where our “destroyed home” had been and also noted where water, septic and temporary electric are located.
  3. We plan to fill-out demolition permit paperwork at the Spokane County Building Department Office. The cost for half a year long demolition permit has been reduced, from $325 to $25. We don’t need an asbestos permit to file this paperwork, because we can get it later (see #5). This demolition permit can later be changed into a building permit. Again, protection from the new more expensive codes forced in the October 29th edition.
  4. Construction permit paperwork, if we can not get it done in time (submitted before Oct 29th, 2023) we face a, “NO PROPANE” dismal situation.
  5. ASBESTOS TEST? Is there is a mortgage on your home? We are going to check with our Mortgage Company to ask them to pay for the testing. They are required to have asbestos testing in their insurance coverage for each home loan. If they do not have this, then call The Office of the Insurance Commissioner at 800-562-6900 and report them.

Water Line Service

Water Line Service – Turning now to our house location after cleanup. There may be some excavation required, and replacement of melted, cracked or damaged water fittings, valves or pipes before the main water supply reactivation. If you don’t know where you are going to rebuild, you can put a frost-free draining standpipe and extend out further to “stub-out” for access later on. When installing any of these frost-free faucets, be sure to use a good amount of gravel at the bottom of their ditch so the pipe can drain properly.

Inspections & Permits – Spokane County, L & I (Labor & Industries) 1-800-547-8367 is the Office that handles the permits, and inspections for this part. This page on their website explains the rules and it is a good idea to read all of them. Here is the form that you must fill out to pay for your permit online, by mail, or in person at their office downtown. F500-094-000 or ONLINE  You will need to pass an electrical inspection before you will be allowed to fill in the ditches or cover any wiring up in the walls. If you forget and fill in the ditches and close the walls, they will make you open them and dig them back up to show them,. They will also charge you again for scheduling another inspection and probably make you wait a while for your inspection.

Rise as One FUNDRAISER

Rise as One

FUNDRAISER

for the Victims of the Oregon Fire

Fri, 9/1/2023

5-7pm

Riverside High School Stadium

Community Healing Event and Football Game

and Fundraiser Kick OFF

Free Admission

Free Food

Thank you to the sponsors

· GESA Credit Union

· STCU, State Teacher’s Credit Union

· DA Davidson

· NAC Architecture

· DCI Engineers

· Innovia Foundation

· MSI Engineers, Meulink Stauffenberg Inc

· Avista

You can see information on the Riverside High School webpage about upcoming events and the

Innovia “Elk Community Wildfire Fund”

An Innovia Foundation Fundraising poster image is shown on this page but, unfortunately, is only a graphic at this time. Clicking on the image of the poster does not take you to the actual fundraising portal yet. Instead, the links actually just go to the graphic files. This is a small correction to make.

After navigating to the Innovia Foundation site, it was easy to lookup the “Elk Community Wildfire Fund“, and it does appear to be a valid collection. Hopefully, if we all share the link for this, to every person we know, we will be able to collect enough funds to be able to actually help all of the uninsured victims be able to get back on their feet again. You can see the link that needs to be shared on FaceBook, in your emails and anywhere else you can think of.

https://innovia.org/elk-community-wildfire-fund/

DNR & Spokane Conservation District

DNR & Spokane Conservation District

Join Us!, for the Washington State Dept of Natural Resources &
Spokane Conservation District informational

“Post Fire Assistance” Meeting

for

Oregon Rd Fire victims

Thursday, September 7th

5:30pm-7:30pm

LOCATION:

Riverside High School
4120 E Deer Park Milan Rd
Chattaroy, WA 99003

Topics include:

· Assessing tree survivability

· Salvage Logging

· Forest practices and regulations

· Slope instability

· Reforestation

· Noxious weeds

· Forest health

· Assistance programs

Download Announcement Here

American Dream Home

CON CON CON

HousingSenate Bill 5027 —“American Dream Home”

  • Grants are given to the Zoning Commission along with allowance to “lessen public-input” in the process of re-zoning the urban lands/utilities to accommodate.
  • Building Department procedure changes radically in cost and time frames, putting a cap on permit cost ($1,200+ -). Imagine having a short time limit to process a permit application. Too bad that the rest of us have had to put up with a lot longer wait for projects going through that department? Our building permit costs were 4 times more than what is being proposed? Why should my rate be so much more than someone newly moving here?
    There will be staff increases needed to manage the higher volume of permits, created by the reduced permit fees. AND! More additional staff will be needed to create another government website so grants, that they will get for doing their job, can be tallied and processed. Another case of FOLLOW THE MONEY!
  • —-Contractors (the selected ones) will be receiving annual TAX CREDITS for 10 years (equal to 4% of the gross selling price of each unit).
  • —-For low-income homeowners (meaning 80% median) tax credits will be allowed for 12 years, excluding them from paying any property tax on their home for more than a decade.

More Bills are attached to this…

*House Bill 1339          Energy in buildings – Would make a new job/required subcontractor for building homes and small businesses. Removes the use of gas/fossil fuel appliances and heating units from new and existing homes.

Senate bill *SB5190           Middle housing – Cities and Counties can change the zoning for housing to allow multi-unit housing in single-unit housing zones.

*SB5412           Land use permitting/local – Allows the city or county to add houses or apartments or multi-house units to an already established neighborhood that still has undeveloped lots.

*SB5235           Accessory dwelling units – Allows a homeowner to add another home on a single-family property to help reduce the housing shortage. No consideration is taken to ordinances or covenants with respect to the single-family residence or community.

*SB5357        Detached Accessory Dwelling Units Same as SB5235