After losing everything in Santiam Canyon wildfire, couple returns home thanks to a turn in fortune

Linda and Chuck Beck, who lost everything in the Santiam Canyon wildfires, embrace in front of a car that was gifted to them through Be Bold Street Ministries. (Saphara Harrell/Salem Reporter)

In the past month, Linda Beck has seen her circumstances change so unexpectedly she thinks it must have been divinely ordained.

After she and her husband, Chuck, lost their RV in the Santiam Canyon wildfires last September, they spent seven months in motels first in Salem and more recently in Lincoln City.

The Becks recall making adjustments to living in a hotel. They had to take multiple trips down the stairs from a third-floor room to let their senior dog, Brandy, out for a walk. Chuck Beck missed his wife’s cooking.

During that time, they saw more bad luck when Linda Beck’s brother died.

But things started to turn around about a month ago. Be Bold Street Ministries, a Salem nonprofit, was giving them a Lakota fifth wheel that was donated to the ministry.

Matthew Maceira, executive director of Be Bold Street Ministries, said the Becks had expected to get a trailer from someone else but the person backed out.

The next day, they got the call from Maceira’s crew about the RV.

Linda Beck said she did a happy dance.

“It’s awesome. We are very happy. Still are,” she said.

On Thursday, the Becks received another donation from the ministry: a 2009 Ford Focus to replace a car they lost in the fire. Chris Culwell, who lives in Independence, said his daughter moved to the East Coast and left her car behind. She wanted him to donate it and Culwell contacted a friend who suggested Be Bold Street Ministries.

Matthew Maceira hands Linda and Chuck Beck the registration for their new car that was donated to Be Bold Street Ministry. (Saphara Harrell/Salem Reporter)

The Becks had lived in an RV park in Detroit for three years after working as a team doing long-haul trucking.

Chuck Beck joked Tuesday that his wife has logged more than 100,000 miles in a semi-trailer and could handle the small sedan they were gifted.

He said the couple left their RV early in the morning when the fires ripped through the Santiam Canyon on Sept. 7. He said he was barreling down the mountain and the fire burned so hot it warped the passenger window.

Linda Beck pointed to a red mark on her face Thursday, a lingering mark from the hot glass.

They didn’t know if they would make it out alive.

“This little voice said you’ve got 470 horse (power),” said Chuck Beck “Use it.”

While they escaped the devastating fire, their trailer was reduced to what could fit in a 40-gallon bucket, Maceira said.

“It was really a God thing,” Culwell said. “I was just looking for a ministry.”

Contact reporter Saphara Harrell at 503-549-6250, [email protected]

BE PART OF OUR TEAM FOR SALEM’S BENEFIT: Accurate local information is vital for any community and that’s harder to come by in this day of “anyone can post anything” to social media. People in communities without trained journalists working for them don’t have accurate, trusted information. Help Salem avoid that fate – join in putting fuel in the tank of Salem Reporter to keep it growing, going strong. Here’s how:

SUBSCRIBE: A monthly digital subscription starts at $5 a month.

GIFT: Give someone you know a subscription.

ONE-TIME PAYMENT: Contribute any amount and you support giving the people of Salem local news otherwise missing. (You can also mail your contribution: Salem Reporter, 72585 Middle Fork Lane, Bates OR 97817)