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Summit Fire: Look at Rebuilding 3 Years Later

Summit Fire: Look at Rebuilding 3 Years Later

Santa Cruz Sentinel

May 29, 2011

Holly Waddle, who lived next to the property where the fire was alleged to have started, said she was fleeing for her life that day. After living there for more than 30 years, she said the biggest fear on the mountain is fire.

And now, she said, speaking about the criminal case, “People are trying to get back on their feet, but (they) need closure.” She said she thinks there were “mistakes all around,” and that the bottom line is that “nothing is going to bring people’s stuff back.”

Darcy Houghton, a county planner who has worked closely with people who lost homes in the Summit Fire, said most people she has dealt with have been grateful for her help in rebuilding.

“Some were just going to throw up their hands and were getting a hard time from the insurance company or something and were just going to go rent a home somewhere,” she said. “But we did go out of our way to help people rebuild. The problem with the Summit Fire is a lot of the units were not completely legal. But the legal ones did pretty good.”

There are various approvals needed to rebuild, she said, but the basic building permit was more than halved. For example, before the fire, a permit to rebuilt a 1,000-square-foot home would have cost $9,018. For a burned-out homeowner, the county dropped the permit cost to $5,511.

The county deal is valid until the end of this year’s fire season, Houghton said.

Wothers, who is building his dream home, said the approval process and the insurance process for him were not nearly as bad as the bank’s financing requirements.

He seemed happy earlier this week as he worked on his home. As he prepared to return to work, Wothers paused and leaned against a shiny black barbecue, near his aging Suburban, small Izusu pickup and a flatbed of some type. Across a small dip in the landscape could be seen a line of old, 1950s trucks — two Chevrolets, two Fords, two Dodges, the old yellows and oranges and blues somehow adding to the canvas of the landscape.

There, he said, will be the outdoor amphitheater, with couches in the truck beds, a big screen.

“Yes, this my dream,” he said.

As Wothers turned back to the project, he gave a wry smile before adding with a sweep of his hand that it was all “like the phoenix, rising from the ashes…”

As he walked away, his two Beagles, Candy Corn and Bongo, and two mixed breeds trotted after him. And the moment was gone.

SUMMIT FIRE

ACRES BURNED: 4,270

STARTED: May 22, 2008 at 5:20 a.m.

CONTAINED: May 27, 2008 at 6 p.m.

LOCATION: Summit Road and Maymen Flats, between Corralitos and the community of Loma Prieta in Santa Clara County.

CAUSE: Six improperly attended burn piles at 31000 Summit Road. Contractor Channing Verden, 52, of Los Gatos was held to answer Thursday on a charge of recklessly starting a fire. He is expected to go to trial in Santa Clara County Superior Court.

STRUCTURES DESTROYED: 34 homes, 82 outbuildings

ESTIMATED COST TO FIGHT FIRE: $16.1 million

A service of YellowBrix, Inc.

© 2009, YellowBrix, Inc.


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