Fire Updates: one year later

By Sammi Bellinghausen and Reece Wisler

Late in the night of Oct. 8, 2017, a tragedy hit Sonoma County. One of the biggest fires in California history ravaged through 36,000 acres. The fire caused 23 fatalities and destroyed 2,800 homes in Santa Rosa alone. In the past year, many people have been trying to rebuild from the ground up.

The rebuilding process has caused varying degrees of stress for different people. Some examples of this are insurance issues, money, finding someone to do the work, and how you want your home to look like. Another big issue is trying to find available contractors, architects, and construction workers. This is an issue because right after the fire, all the local ones took on multiple jobs each. This need for workers lead people to temporarily move to Sonoma County for job opportunities.

Photo by Sammi Bellinghausen

Price gouging was also a big concern in Sonoma County through the months following the fire. Homeowners who rented their home out overvalued the rent prices. There is a law that doesn’t allow homeowners to raise rent more than 10%, but homeowners found a way of getting around this law: taking their homes off the market for a short period of time and then relisting them with a higher price.

Now that Sonoma County is 11 months out from the fire, people are slowly returning to their new homes. Rebuilding efforts have been very strong in neighborhoods like Coffey Park, so many of the homes in Coffey Park are close to completion. Where as neighborhoods like Fountaingrove and Mark West Springs are taking longer to rebuild since the city is dealing with the larger neighborhoods first. Also, supplies have raised in price exponentially due to the fact that people are desperate, thus leading homeowners to sell their lots, obtain the money and restart life somewhere less expensive.

The process of getting permits cleared and fixed by the city has taken a great deal of time. Many residents in the beginning stages of the rebuilding process were told that getting permits would take weeks to obtain, but didn’t receive them until months after applying for them. The process of getting permits, supplies, and companies to rebuild have put a significant damper on the dreams of residents who hoped to be back to their new homes within a year of the fires.

Even though it has almost been a full year since the fire, it is important to remember that the people who were affected the most are still dealing with a lot of pain. Most people are not back in their homes yet, so they live their day to day lives without having the comfort of their own home. It is very easy to take your home for granted until it’s gone.


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