When the Kincade Fire swept through Sonoma County last week, one thought crossed the minds of homeowners and builders alike: Will we have to rebuild again?
Uncertainty about the Kincade Fire’s initial path worried homeowners and builders about whether properties would incur a second round of damages, the first from the Tubbs Fire that burned through the county in 2017. Though parts of the city of Santa Rosa were hit twice, the latest fire spared many places where rebuilding projects were underway.
This was a relief for Scott Chapman, general superintendent of Chapman Construction and a second-generation local contractor, who has projects in Santa Rosa and Glen Ellen, which were under mandatory evacuation orders that Cal Fire lifted by Oct. 30.
Chapman anticipates that he will be consulting on rebuilding efforts following the Kincade Fire given his experience dealing with the complexity of constructing in fire-ravaged areas and in a state with standards that he says get stricter every year.
“Anything you build has to conform to current, modern codes. We can’t build like it’s 1975. We have to build like it 2019,” said Chapman.
“We have to manage [owners’] expectations and tell them there’s a lot of work that’s going to be happening to build the house even if we’re building the same house as before. That can be tough sometimes,” he added.
The other challenge is claiming the full cost of damages from insurance companies that often determine payout amounts from national averages, despite Sonoma County being more expensive.
Hugh Field, owner of Owner Advocacy LLC, has been helping owners receive the full replacement value of their homes from insurance companies. His business also helps connect owners to contractors.
When homeowners come to him ready to rebuild, they are often still reeling from trauma caused by the fires.
“It’s not just the construction expertise that I’m providing but some measure of an emotional backboard,” Field said.
Though he admits the work is hard, he looks to the way contractors and homeowners worked together to deal with the fallout of the Tubbs Fire. He noted that many contractors lost homes themselves or had family members who did.
“The reaction of the people was exceptional in 2017 and I expect the reaction near Geyserville will be as well.”