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Jackson County Opens Center To Expedite Building Permits For Wildfire Victims

A home in Talent that was destroyed in the Almeda Fire on Sept. 8, 2020, is nearing completing as of early May 2021.
April Ehrlich
JPR News
A home in Talent that was destroyed in the Almeda Fire on Sept. 8, 2020, is nearing completing as of early May 2021.

A new resource for people affected by wildfires in Jackson County is opening today, September 20th, in Medford. The newly opened Wildfire Victim Resiliency Permit Center will be expediting building permits for residents affected by wildfires in certain areas of Jackson County.

The center hopes to start off by aiding victims of the Almeda and South Obenchain fires who live in unincorporated areas of the county.

Ted Zuk, the Jackson County Development Services Director, says they hope to get permits out in 5 to 7 days.

“That’s a very aggressive goal,” says Zuk. “You might imagine it as the express lane in the grocery store. What we are doing is we are opening up another aisle, another availability for people to get faster service because we have the extra resources to be able to do that.”

The state provided funding that allowed the county to hire a company, 4leaf, that specializes in disaster recovery to help process permits. The center is opening now because clean-up of the wildfires has just ended and permitting can begin.

Eventually, the center plans to open up to everyone who was affected by the 2020 fires. For right now, however, they are focusing on rebuilding in unincorporated Jackson county because this area faces unique challenges. Many houses that burned were manufactured homes, most located in manufactured home parks.

“Issues that they have is that it took more to clean them,” says Zuk, talking about manufactured home parks. “Also manufactured homes right now take a year and a half or two years to get them if you were to order one. So that is an issue that they are working through.”

The center's services cover over 1100 homes in the region. The county is soon hoping to expand the services to include help with grants for rebuilding, in addition to permits.

Sophia Prince is a reporter and producer for JPR News. She began as JPR’s 2021 summer intern through the Charles Snowden Program for Excellence in Journalism. She graduated from the University of Oregon with a BA in journalism and international studies.