Hounded by Wildfires, Californians Rethink Their Willingness to Rebuild

Hounded by Wildfires, Californians Rethink Their Willingness to Rebuild

Since the bonfire, Mr Singer and his wife Shannon have rented an apartment in Chico, about 20 miles away, while handling the various headaches – insurance, zoning, construction, planning – required to rebuild their home. They also founded a nonprofit, Paradise Stronger, which uses their background in fitness coaching to provide mental health to residents coping with the trauma of the disaster. Initially, they were determined to be part of Paradise's ambitious restoration plan to rebuild the entire city from scratch. This includes more parks and green spaces, fireproof landscaping, and improved evacuation routes and warning systems.

But then came the 2020 fire season, which brought new hellish vocabulary into the dictionary – "Megafires", "hot drought". Fire-whipping winds that force preventive shutdowns are standard today. In October the singers found each other evacuating their country, except this time the fire was on the way and had already had its festival.

"This time the area that was evacuated first was exactly where our home would have been," said the 43-year-old Singer. “All you could see was smoke. PTSD was widespread. "

His wife decided she had had enough.

"She turned to me and said," I'm not sure I want to rebuild. I'm not sure I don't want to be here anymore, ”said Singer. For his part, he says, he would be willing to take it – but not at the expense of his relationship.

"I see the vision of this city and I want to be a part of it, but not if it means my marriage," said Mr Singer.

For the moment, the couple has hit the pause button in their recovery plans. If they move forward, they also want to spend $ 100,000 out of pocket. Her rebuilding plans are for a smaller but more fireproof home on the same lot, and the estimated cost is $ 250,000. They received $ 145,000 for the burning structure; Like nearly 60 percent of American households, they learned that they were severely underinsured.

Many insurers have also abandoned their contracts altogether in areas that are deemed too risky: The California Department of Insurance reported in October that home insurers' refusal to renew contracts rose 31 percent nationwide in 2019, bringing that percentage in zip codes to 61 Percent has increased with increased fire risk.


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