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California Communities Gradually Rebuilding After Destructive Wildfires

California endured two of its most destructive wildfires on record in 2017 and 2018. The communities hit by these disparaging fires continue to work toward recovery as building permit applications have spiked in the areas that experienced the most destruction. 

The 2018 Camp Fire in Butte County and the 2017 Tubbs Fire in Napa and Sonoma counties registered as the two most-destructive wildfires in the state, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection

The Camp Fire destroyed 18,804 structures and the Tubbs Fire destroyed 5,636 structures, including a little over 3,000 housing units in Santa Rosa and Sonoma counties, according to the department. 

Both fires were costly to the communities impacted. The more than 3,000 homes destroyed by the Tubbs fire amounted to about $1.2 billion in damage in Santa Rosa and Sonoma counties. About 76% of those housing units were beyond repair, according to CoreLogic

The Camp Fire accrued $16.5 billion in damages—only $4 billion of which was insured.

Recovery is underway in Santa Rosa, Sonoma, and Butte counties. These areas experienced an uptick in building permit applications following the destruction. However, as applications flooded in, the turnaround times on approvals began to grow.

CoreLogic reported that as of February, 2,326 of the housing units destroyed are in some stage of being rebuilt. A little over 1,000 units are already complete, and another 1,000 are under construction. 

Another 121 housing units have permits in review, and 117 are pending construction, according to the latest data. 

Following wildfires such as these, “builders quickly begin to repair damaged communities, which often overwhelms city planning departments with permit applications,” CoreLogic stated. 

In the town of Paradise, where the Camp Fire originated, permit applications hit a high of 107 in December 2019. In total, there have been 385 permits approved since the Camp Fire. 

Permits in Paradise are being approved in an average of 47 days, but CoreLogic anticipates the timeline will “increase slightly” as the city planning department begins to receive more applications. 

As of February, 68 homes had been rebuilt in Paradise, according to CoreLogic. 

A spike in permit applications in Santa Rosa caused the approval timeline in the county to grow to 89 days in December 2018.

In May 2018, Santa Rosa received 163 permit requests for single-family residences. Permits peaked in August 2018 with 188 applications, according to CoreLogic. 

The overall average turnaround time for a building permit application in Santa Rosa since the Tubbs fire has been 54 days. 

CoreLogic anticipates this February’s average permit timeline to be in the same range as that of last February—about 63 days, finding that “peak permit requesting after the Tubbs Fire has come to an end.”

About Author: Krista F. Brock

Krista Franks Brock is a professional writer and editor who has covered the mortgage banking and default servicing sectors since 2011. Previously, she served as managing editor of DS News and Southern Distinction, a regional lifestyle publication. Her work has appeared in a variety of print and online publications, including Consumers Digest, Dallas Style and Design, DS News and DSNews.com, MReport and theMReport.com. She holds degrees in journalism and art from the University of Georgia.

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