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Rebuilding from the ashes

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With community’s help, couple rebuilds shop lost in fire

Early one morning on Jan. 17, Joanne and Bill Storch woke up to the sound of an explosion.

After rushing to the window, they saw a fire swallowing the two-story woodshop located behind their property at 5710 S.W. West Hills Road. The building housed their business, Storch Woodworking, and contained professional carpentry equipment, countless hand tools and keepsake wood pieces.

Firefighters were at the scene from 3:30 a.m. until 11 p.m. that day, first to battle the 80-foot-tall flames and then to manage the smoldering embers.

An independent fire inspector determined that an electrical cord stored underneath the shop most likely started the blaze; a metal canoe stored nearby was probably jostled by strong winds and landed on the cord.

The Storches were shaken, but not disheartened: they planned to rebuild the shop. They began sorting through debris the Saturday morning following the Tuesday fire.

“Neither one of us figured we could function without a shop,” Bill Storch said. “We’ve gotten so our tools are an extension of ourselves.”

And out of the ashes came a pleasant surprise: friends, family, work associates, neighbors and contractors have lent a helping hand in some way or another.

Within days of the fire, the Storches received phone calls from more than 25 local woodshops who offered up space they could use in the interim.

Joanne Storch listed more than 80 individuals who helped in some way, from sorting through the post-blaze debris, offering shop and storage space, cooking up meals on long work days and breaking a sweat to tip up framed walls or install the roof’s plywood.

“People really come through, and they enjoy helping,” Bill Storch said.

That group included Bill Storch’s 83-year-old father, Dana.

“He’s here almost every day,” Joanne Storch said.

The Storches also were happy with the work of Henderer Design + Build, who installed the supporting floor joists, and The Village Builder, who installed plywood wall sheathing over the frames. The Village Builder crew even brought Joanne Storch on board to help cut the plywood (in fact, she built the shop’s framing herself).

“I felt like I was part of the team,” she said.

Both say the new project is far from over. There’s still drywall and wainscoting to install, oak floor to lay and doors to build and install. Even with the help of friends and family, much of the work is done by Bill and Joanne.

Neither expect their new space to compare to its predecessor, built by Bill Storch in 1981 and filled with decades worth of memories and family antiques along with their tools.

But they consider themselves fortunate to benefit from the good deeds of the community.

“People really do care — it’s amazing,” Bill Storch said.

Contact Gazette-Times reporter Gail Cole at 541-758-9510 or


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