OMAK – The Okanogan County Long Term Recovery Group opened the new homes of Colville tribal member Susan and Dennis Best and Robert, Aaron and Aiden Stafford, June 21, hosting dedications at the two residences near Desautel on the Colville Indian Reservation.
Both the Bests and Staffords had lost their homes in the Tunk Block Fire in 2015.
“We moved up here in late 1990,” said Devin Best, in thanking those gathered at his family’s home dedication. “I was still in middle school, and trying to get good grades, just live every other middle schooler. When I first saw the old house, I was amazed. I thought, ‘We can live here?’ You know what, I feel the same way with this new house. As much as they took care of me in the old house, I plan to take care of them in this new one.”
Approximately 50 turned out for the dedication at the Bests home, including volunteers, AmeriCorps staff and volunteers, the Okanogan Country LTRG and other community groups, funders, family and friends.
“In the spring of 2015, the Bests paid the note off on their home. They owned it outright, and directly after that the insurance company dropped them because they were no longer carrying a mortgage,” retold Jessica Rounds, a caseworker with the recovery group. “Susan was not able to obtain insurance in the timeframe, before the wildfire came through, and they lost their home. The family lost their family home. It was devastating … [They planned on moving back but] it didn’t seem fair to me. We really decided this was a process we needed to be involved with, we needed to support. It was necessary to keep not only in Omak but specifically here in Haley Creek on their family property.”
“This is not just a house, but a home, where they can congregate again with their family,” continued Rounds.
“It’s been a long time,” said Dennis Best. “I didn’t know if we’d make it back here, but here we are. I am so thank when I look at everyone here.”
Since 2015, the over 2,000 volunteers have logged more than 193,330 hours of work with the Okanogan County LTRG in building 36 homes in Okanogan County, saving approximately $3.2 million in labor costs, according to the group.
The group formed in response to the 2014 Carlton Complex of fires and the 2015 Tunk Block and North Star Fires.
Carleen Anders, Okanogan County LTRG Executive Director, emceed both home dedications.