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

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

DETROIT, Ore. – It’s been about nine months since wildfires scorched more than a million acres in Oregon last September.

While some survivors have started to rebuild, others simply cannot afford it due to the cost of building materials, which has 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 wildfire season.

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

“Right now we’re trying to put out tenders for all parts of building a house,” Tesdal said. “We’re having trouble getting offers.”

Soaring prices for building materials made it difficult to rebuild after the fires.

“We have about 50% of our insurance covering our rebuild, so we’ll have to apply for a construction loan, so we have to be diligent about getting offers,” Tesdal said.

RELATED: Some Oregon wildfire survivors are rebuilding homes

Right now, wood costs three times what it cost during the pandemic. The cost of metal, dry well and appliances has also increased, according to Oregon State Economist Josh Lehner.

“They’re talking about 25 to 30 percent increases in overall construction cost if you build today,” Lehner said.

“Incomes are up, housing demand is exploding,” he added. “And so when you have this shutdown on the supply side of the construction industry, even just for a few months where the demand, it’s behind the eight ball.”

This means shortages and a lack of availability for building materials.

Lehner said that with prices rising and sawmill production resuming, demand should calm down, but it’s taking longer than most people, including fire victims like Michele Tesdal, the had hoped.

RELATED: Supply, Demand and COVID-19: The price of wood has almost quadrupled in the past year

“We’re just going to keep going and at least try to lay the foundation,” she said.

Tesdal said that even though times are stressful, she is doing her best to remain optimistic.

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