Mar. 8--Rebuilding efforts continue for survivors of the Camp and Cascade fires, which ravaged the north state in recent years. While the damage left was great, the sentiment of resilience and determination to build anew is fresh in the communities affected by the destructive fires.
The Cascade fire killed four people, destroyed 142 homes, approximately 110 additional structures and burned nearly 10,000 acres in 2017. The fire was one of four fires known as the Wind-Complex, which started around the same time in October 2017.
Yuba County public information officer Russ Brown said 108 permit applications have been submitted to build new homes, and, of the applicants, 58 have received certificates of occupancy. Brown said there have also been 18 permit applications for new garage structures, which are often separate from the home.
"In any recovery, it always takes years for a community to realize a true real recovery, and that's what you're seeing now," Brown said.
Rebuilding a home can be a complicated mix of construction decisions coupled with working within insurance policy parameters. Yuba County District 5 Supervisor Randy Fletcher said the county has worked to remove barriers which can keep people from starting the rebuilding process.
"We made it as smooth and quick as possible...we fast-tracked everything," Fletcher said. "If you knew what you wanted and had insurance, you could literally be rebuilding within a year."
Homeowner's insurance however, is a key piece Fletcher said many Loma Rica homeowners didn't have, or didn't have an adequate amount of, prior to the fire.
Brown echoed Fletchers sentiments, noting that some residents chose not to rebuild in the area because of inadequate insurance.
Every time this bell rings, a homeowner in Paradise gets a permit issued to rebuild their home.
Paradise Town Manager Lauren Gill said the bell at the building resiliency center has rung almost 1,000 times since permits started to be issued last year. The center, she said, is a one-stop shop for property owners and contractors to help with information, forms and permits for the rebuilding process.
The Camp Fire, California's most destructive and deadly wildfire will take years to fully recover from, but progress continues weekly, Gill said.
As of March 4, there have been 834 building permit applications received, 645 permits issued and 68 homes rebuilt and granted certificates of occupancy, according to makeitparadise.org.
In addition to individual homes, Gill said many businesses have returned, like grocery stores, Starbucks, hair salons, a dry cleaners and an upcoming Subway sandwich shop.
While Gill -- whose home was not damaged in the fire -- said she's glad to have some normalcy returning to town, she said seeing individual's determination is what really excites her.
"What is more important than normalcy is people's determination and grit," Gill said. "People are coming back and you can feel their excitement."
With debris removal efforts completed in November, the next step is removing hazardous trees from private properties in the burn scar. The deadline to sign up for tree removal was extended to May 1, in an effort to encourage property owner participation.
"There's still a lot of work to be done," Gill said. "Redoing the roads, improving the traffic circulation and evacuation routes, putting utilities underground."
Grants from organizations like the Red Cross are intended to support long-term Camp Fire relief efforts. The Red Cross Gold Country Region raised $9.5 million in long-term recovery grants, which communications director Steve Walsh said were awarded to local organizations who were identified as serving needs in the community.
"We meet with people that are staying in shelters to figure out how to get them back to a normal life, Walsh said.
Based on interviews conducted with people staying at shelters after the Camp Fire, Walsh said 12 organizations like the Boys and Girls Club of North Valley, North Valley Community Foundation, Catalyst Domestic Violence Services and Youth For Change were awarded grants.
One of the Red Cross grant recipients, the North Valley Community Foundation has awarded more than $30 million grants since the Camp Fire through the Butte Strong Fund, Camp Fire Relief Fund and donor-designated funds, according to the organizations website.
While rebuilding efforts will be underway for years, it's clear that resiliency runs deep in the region.
"Not only in the immediate aftermath, but in the months and years following, North State residents have stepped up to offer resources and help people rebuild their lives," Assemblyman James Gallagher, 3rd Dist. Republican of Yuba City said in an email statement. "My office continues to respond to requests for assistance and we will continue to vigorously fight for every possible solution to help folks recover and rebuild."
For Gill, she said the support from the area is still felt, as the long road to reconstruction continues.
"You don't experience something like this in a vacuum, the region basically held us up," Gill said. "Everyone is still here working and figuring out the next thing that needs to be done."
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