Rebuilding After Fire

Laguna Beach fire fighters deployed to a wildfire in Anaheim in October.
Laguna Beach fire fighters deployed to a wildfire in Anaheim in October.

California wildfires in September and October burned more than 245,000 acres and destroyed and damaged more than 8,700 homes, businesses and properties, the most devastating ever in the state.

“The attention turns now to the residents who lost or suffered damage to their property,” said Jerry Davies, chair of the California Fire Safe Council.

Debris removal in hardest hit Santa Rosa and other areas has begun, says Janet Ruiz, a representative of the Insurance Information Institute. Gov. Jerry Brown has authorized the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to remove visible hazardous debris from wildfire-burned homes and rebuilding will probably begin in spring and take several years.

“As rebuilding begins and others proceed with upgrades to make their homes and businesses safer, we urge the use of an ember-resistant design with proven, noncombustible or fire-resistant materials,” said Steve Quarles, chief scientist at the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety.

“Install the materials with an eye toward maintaining an effective mandated 100 foot defensible space on the property,” he said. “A best practice is a five-foot noncombustible zone around the house, using, for example, rock mulch, a decorative ground cover made of natural, noncombustible stone vs shredded or chipped wood mulch material.”

He has other advice to lower the risk from igniting embers: a six-inch vertical separation between the ground and the start of siding, a class A fire-rated roof covering and multi-pane tempered glass windows with 1/8-inch mesh covering on all vents. For further information on reducing wildfire damage to homes visit www.IBHS.Org.

Fire Safe Councils in the counties of Napa, Sonoma, Anaheim, Mendocino, Butte, Yuba and the city of Santa Rosa are working with their members in the cleanup efforts. Once cleanup is completed, they are planning fire prevention workshops in their communities to prepare for future fires.

Fire Safe Councils in Nevada County, San Diego and Fallbrook are continuing to conduct fire prevention workshops in November for residents to learn how to become fire-safe and fire-smart and ready for the next fires that happen year-round.

The trauma from losing a home and all belongings is indescribable. Sandra Younger and her husband lost their home, 12 neighbors and nearly her own life in the 2003 Cedar Fire. She now speaks and leads personal resilience workshops that promote emotional recovery for disaster survivors and emergency professionals. Sandra can be contacted at:

For further information on the California Fire Safe Council and a list of all local Fire Safe Councils in California, please visit