Homeowners, vintners in Mendocino's Redwood Valley rebuild after wildfire
Compared with more than 5,000 homes lost in Santa Rosa from the October wildfires, the more than 380 destroyed in Mendocino County in a separate but simultaneous firestorm seems small.
Yet it was almost one-quarter of the housing in the rural Redwood and Potter valleys.
More than 36,000 acres of the county burned in the blaze, which started late Oct. 8. Nine months later, 312 of the about 400 burned sites in Mendocino County have been cleared of debris and turned back over the property owners, according to county CEO Carmel Angelo. The rest have been cleared of debris, but county paperwork still needs to be finalized.
So far, 77 rebuild permits have been issued, and another 12 are under review. Of those, 41 are for manufactured homes, and the rest are standard construction.
“That’s pretty good that we have that many building permits so far,” she said.
Of the issued permits, six homes have been finished, four of which are manufactured dwellings.
RETURN OF A HARD-HIT NEIGHBORHOOD
One of the Redwood Valley homes in the home stretch of rebuilding belongs to George and Nancy Borecky. They have lived on the Tomki Road property for 43 years and had just finished remodeling their home before the fire.
Early on Oct. 9, the Boreckys were awakened by something they don’t recall. They had less than 15 minutes to flee with themselves and their dogs. Blasting the vehicle’s air horn to alert their neighbors, they sped through flames and smoke so thick they could barely see the markings on Tomki Road as they headed south.
Theirs was one of 44 lots that burned in the Mountain River Ranch subdivision, which also includes Fisher Lake Drive, where 18 homes were destroyed and two people died.
Like neighbors who have their homes under construction, the Boreckys are living in their motor coach on the property as Cupples & Sons Construction of Ukiah completes the exterior of the home.
One of the four homes on Fisher Lake Drive that started to rise from the ground again is a 1,500-square-foot house for Steve and Katrena Dursteler. It’s a totally different floorplan from the 2,300-square-foot house they had lived in for 14 years before the fire. They had revamped their back yard just two weeks before the fire.
“We could not afford to rebuild what we had, because of the cost of materials has increased so much,” Katrena Dursteler said, sitting in their new travel trailer at the property while the air-conditioner strained on the 100-degree day.
Unlike the Boreckys, who had their RV prepped to leave for a planned trip to Oregon the same week of the firestorm, the Durstelers lost dogs and their travel trailer while running from house to house to alert the neighborhood. A neighbor’s call at 1 a.m. had rousted them out of sleep.
While their USAA insurance policy paid out to the limits on the structure, the Durstelers said they could only get 75 percent for contents without itemizing what was lost.
REBUILD RESET: OVEREXCAVATION
Work on the Boreckys’ lot started in January, first by crews the Army Corps of Engineers hired to clean the site of contaminants left by the incineration of their home. But 127 of the Mendocino County sites in need of cleanup were overexcavated, according to Angelo, the Mendocino County CEO. State officials came in to look at the sites and found 82 were eligible for covering the cost of backfilling the holes where the homes once stood and compacting the new material.