For those who have lost their homes and all of their belongings in last year’s Paradise, CA Camp Fire, there’s a big decision pending: should you return to Paradise and rebuild or cut your losses and find a new place to establish your life? And if you decide to return, what can be done to ensure that another horrific wildfire doesn’t happen again?
Factors for Wildfires
Since 1914, 42 wildfires have burned more than 300 acres within the Camp Fire footprint and 13 of those occurred after 1999. Between the dry vegetation due to California’s climate, the various beetles that have been killing Ponderosa Pines, legal red tape that prevents landowners from clearing off excess brush, harsh winds, and allegedly faulty PG&E equipment, there are a lot of factors that put Paradise at risk for wildfires. When you add them all together, it seems like the risk of wildfires is unavoidable. Is it even feasible to consider rebuilding Paradise? “They didn’t abandon New Orleans after Katrina, they’re not abandoning Hawaii although there’s a volcano going off, they’re not abandoning San Francisco despite the earthquake dangers,” explained Paradise Mayor Jody Jones to the Enterprise-Record. “Anywhere you go, there’s some risk of a natural disaster.”
Options for Building a Safer Paradise
As many of the residents of Paradise rebuild, there are several words of advice that researchers and disaster analysts are recommending:
Fireproof Building Materials
If you’re rebuilding, the most important thing is to find a contractor who knows the best and most advanced building materials to use to make your new home fire resistant. For example, ICF (insulated concrete forms) blocks are filled with concrete making them heat and fire resistant with the added benefit of being sound and weather proof. This material is about 1 – 4% more expensive than a wood frame, but it’s worth the investment. Stone, stucco, and brick are also durable building supplies. Additionally, avoid wood products for your roof and consider metal or concrete products.
“Sixty percent of new homes built in California, Washington and Oregon since 1990 have been developed in what’s known as the Wildland Urban Interface,” states the Enterprise-Record. This “intermix — where vegetation and houses intermingle, such as in Paradise, and interface, where a concentration of houses abuts a forest or chaparral,” makes it hard to protect a housing development when a forest fire starts. There should be a clear break between dense forest areas and housing developments. It may not be as pretty, but it certainly is safer.
One of the most critical ways to improve Paradise is to add routes in and out of the town. With the fire moving so quickly and with such ferocity, panic accompanied the mass exodus down Skyway and Clark Road. Cars were locked in traffic, trees were ablaze, the sky was thick with smoke, and chaos was everywhere. With thousands of people trying to leave (and many of the elderly left to fend for themselves), a new escape plan needs to be one of the first steps towards safely rebuilding the community.
One of Paradise’s biggest assets and detriments is its densely wooded surroundings; this gorgeous selling point is also the tinder that threatens the town. Thomas Scott, an expert on wildfire at the University of California, Berkeley, advises that summer fires be allowed to remove younger trees to create a more widely spaced, thinner forest. “The Paradise fire is a special case because there were sufficient fuels around the city which let the fire come in a number of different ways,” Scott said. Creating breaks around the structures and fewer trees will protect the town and will lessen the risk of fire danger.
This is probably one of the most controversial parts about the Camp Fire: is PG&E at fault, should you sue, and will they go bankrupt. Consider the facts at hand:
- On Nov. 8 – the morning of the Camp Fire – PG&E reported to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) that an outage occurred just minutes before witnesses saw the fire start under transmission lines.
- PG&E allegedly sent out emails saying that they would turn off the power due to harsh weather conditions, but they failed to do so.
- San Francisco Federal Judge William Alsup declared that uninsulated power conductors owned by PG&E are to blame for the majority of Northern California’s wildfires over the past two years – including the deadly Camp Fire.
If you lost everything in Paradise, then you have the huge undertaking of rebuilding your life in Paradise or somewhere else. In either case, you need funding to start over from your insurance company and/or a PG&E potential settlement. Call Periscope Group today at (800) 511-3838 or get in touch now. We want to hear your story and help you get the appropriate compensation if we can.