Nimrod family reflects on Holiday Farm Fire, shares road to rebuilding

"You have to really appreciate that your family got through it."

Posted: Feb 17, 2021 6:46 PM
Updated: May 3, 2021 11:47 AM

NIMROD, Ore. -- The Holiday Farm Fire destroyed over 170,000 acres last fall, and the road to rebuilding has been far from easy for those who fell victim to the destruction.

RELATED: NUMBER OF STRUCTURES LOST IN HOLIDAY FARM FIRE UP TO 723

KEZI 9 News spoke to one family Wednesday who was evacuated from their Nimrod property back in September.

"You have to really appreciate that your family got through it,” Nimrod resident Annie Margarita said. “We still have everyone in the family. The dogs are fine. The house is gone. The stuff is gone. The river still keeps going. It’s still a beautiful place. It’s changed, but we’re still happy. It’s sad when we look at it, but it has so much promise. It’s kind of an open slate now.”

This wasn’t the first time KEZI spoke to the family.

RELATED: HUNDREDS SEEK TEMPORARY SHELTER AT THURSTON HIGH SCHOOL

Here are the initial words from Margarita just hours after the family was evacuated to Thurston High School.

"We had no idea that the fire was going on like 8 to 10 o'clock, and all of a sudden we got a code three," Margarita said in September. "We got yelled at over the speakers and on the emergency broadcast so we ran out with nothing. We think it’s all gone.”

Unfortunately, almost everything had been swept away -- except for a single cottage, shed, a car and a 1946 drift boat.

An art studio, music collections, film gear, special jewelry, a car and four cabins were destroyed.

“We heard rumors that it was gone, and that was crushing,” Margarita said. “We didn't really have confirmation for probably 10 days."

Margarita’s partner Bert de Klerk retired on Jan. 1 of last year, but that later changed.

“I had no idea that retirement would be so exciting,” he said. “Now, we have to rebuild, and we have to do it with less, so I have to pull out of retirement and do a bed and breakfast.”

The McKenzie River Inn was built in the 1920s and was a livelihood for the family before they closed doors. They had just finished painting the inn, but shortly after, the wildfires took control.

Family members were staying in the cabins that night.

Four two-story cabins with multiple bedrooms and bathrooms were left in ruins, including a jacuzzi.

They said they have hired a builder but will have to make the inn smaller because the insurance company is giving them not even half of what the property was worth.

“You don't know what you have until you lose it, right?" de Klerk said.

Even through the chaos, they said their children are thriving -- making straight A's in college-- as everyone remains strong as a family.

“We’re very proud of them,” Margarita said.

The family is in a rental home in Eugene until they are given the green light to rebuild.

"We have to just hope that the county will get us in so they can OK our permits so we can build and move in maybe by winter. We don't know yet," Margarita said.

RELATED: ‘WE’LL BE BACK’: RECOVERY PHASE CONTINUES AFTER HOLIDAY FARM FIRE

They shared that the support from the community has been greater than they could have expected, as they continue to look ahead to the future.

“I would recommend to anybody to take pictures and videos of what you have before something like this happens,” de Klerk said.

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