Echo Mountain Complex Fire

Grants help coastal artists rebuild after Echo Mountain fire

Ashley Andersen and Nancy Jean Chase are among 11 artists who will benefit from nearly $14,000 awarded by the Lincoln City Cultural Center

As Ashley Andersen watched her greenhouse take flight, picked up by the windstorm raging outside her Otis home, she wondered if she should pack a go-bag before tucking into bed for the night.

“Growing up military, they teach you to do that,” said Andersen, an illustrator who had lived in Otis as a child and been back less than two years. “Anytime you think you should have a go-bag, you should just do it.”

Ashley Andersen and her boyfriend, Jason Taylor (holding their dog, Shenzie) lost their house, cars, boat, and cat in the Echo Mountain Complex Fire. She is holding a commissioned gouache portrait created after the September fire.
Ashley Andersen and her boyfriend, Jason Taylor (holding their dog, Shenzie), lost their house, cars, boat, and cat in the Echo Mountain Complex Fire. She holds a commissioned gouache portrait created after the September fire.

Andersen and her boyfriend, Jason Taylor, were among the hundreds who escaped into the night as the Labor Day windstorm howled and — unbeknownst to them — flames licked at the surrounding forest.

In the end, the Echo Mountain Complex Fire would ravage more than 2,500 acres, destroying nearly 300 homes, hundreds of buildings, and leaving the little town of Otis, roughly four miles east of Lincoln City, a charred no-man’s land.

Minor by comparison, but nonetheless painful, was the cancellation — again — of the Lincoln City Cultural Center’s annual gala, already revamped once to accommodate rules for COVID-19. But that disappointment yielded some good news, as would-be gala attendees donated the price of their prepurchased tickets, inspiring what was to become the Echo Mountain Arts Fund. That sum in turn was bolstered by a donation from the Oneatta Fund of the Oregon Community Foundation.

Earlier this month, the cultural center awarded nearly $14,000 in the first round of grants from the fund to 11 Otis-area artists, including Andersen. Fundraising is continuing with an online auction. Items up for bid include a glass phoenix made from Echo Mountain fire ash by Kelly Howard at Lincoln City Glass Studio, and a quilt by Otis artist Pat Lay will be raffled. The online auction ends at 6 p.m. Feb. 13.

As she sat wondering about that go-bag, Andersen suspected she had waited too long when she heard a crack and crash as a tree fell onto the roof just over Taylor’s head. It was time to go.

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