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'Stay home' order halts construction on Kettle Falls family's home lost in wildfire

Pickett and his family were living in California when coronavirus became a concern. They decided they’d be safer back in Kettle Falls.

KETTLE FALLS, Wash. — A Kettle Falls family on the verge of getting their home rebuilt after losing everything in the 2018 Boyd’s Fire has hit a big bump in the road because of the coronavirus closures.

Ian Pickett, his wife and three kids had five minutes to get out of their home before the Boyd’s Fire took everything they had. They had insurance and they allowed them to stay in a hotel for a year. Then, they moved into a trailer.

 “Because we couldn't afford to pay both the house mortgage and somewhere else to live, we had to move in with family down in California,” Pickett said. 

After the fire, they decided to rebuild their home on the same land.

Pickett and his family were living in California when coronavirus became a concern. They decided they’d be safer back in Kettle Falls. 

“We figured it'd be best to come up here to our property and just try to step back and wait it out and see how it all develops so we moved back into a trailer in a shed with my wife and my kids,” he said. “We have a Porta Potty on site for the construction that we use as the bathroom and then we, we try to go into town to borrow somebody's shower during the evening.” 

Then, Governor Jay Inslee issued the “stay home, stay healthy” order, shutting down businesses, including residential construction. This further delayed the process of building his family’s new home. 

“They were actually about to start drywall on the inside and really starting to knock it out. I mean there was a real light at the end of the tunnel,” he said. “And then it just all stopped because we were considered non-essential.” 

He understands the seriousness of coronavirus. Pickett’s youngest son has asthma and he knows the risks. 

“We're very cautious about social distancing and we understand the fear and we understand the cause,” he said. 

The order makes an exemption for "Construction workers who support the construction, operation, inspection, and maintenance of construction sites and construction projects (including housing construction) for all essential facilities, services and projects included in this document, and for residential construction related to emergency repairs and projects that ensure structural integrity." 

There is no reference to commercial office, housing, or infrastructure projects.

In a briefing with reporters immediately following the Governor's televised address, Inslee's staff was asked to clarify the extent of the order as it applies to development.

RELATED: Construction project leaders look for clarity after Inslee's stay-home order

In an email to our sister station KING 5, Inslee's Communications Director Tara Lee wrote, "My understanding is that if construction is for essential purposes – building a hospital wing etc., then it is permitted. But general construction that is not essential needs to be halted..." She added, "Amazon, Key Arena, Convention Center etc. need to stop for this."

KREM 2 also reached out to the governor’s office and the attorney general’s office for a statement. 

Picket thinks it’s “hypocritical” for the state to continue construction projects for that pertain to the government and not for family who has technically been homeless for two years. 

“It’s been extremely tough on the kids. I know everybody's going through something right now, but we've been going for two years every day is what's going to happen next with my kids and I would just love to be able to tell them you know there's light at the end of the tunnel we're gonna be able to move into our home and try to recreate our lives with some sort of normalcy,” he explained. 

For now, the Picketts are continuing to make payments on a house they can’t live in.

"We've been behind on everything for a long time. We spent months trying not to lose the property that we're waiting to get rebuilt," he said. "It's financially taxing. I just wish the governor would see that."

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