Friday, October 9, 2009

Walk #280: The Concow Fire...

Yesterday, I took a walk down to the bowl that holds the rural area of Concow. The first night Joni and I moved in to our Solar Homestead (the summer of 2008), we were awakened at 6 am by the ever helpful police, and told to evacuate.

A firestorm was on its way...and from the Red Cross shelter, Joni and I could follow the fire on CNN and various other news outlets. We spent a few days in the shelter. Joni was interviewed for the local TV station, with a dramatic story of a Family That Spends One Night In Their New Home And Then Watches Anxiously As Their New Life Goes Up In Flames.

I was interviwed by National Fox Radio, and told the Reporter that if the fire takes our home, so be it. It is normal and natural for the environment.

I haven't been down to this part of Concow since the fire. I didn't feel right taking pictures of the devastation. The photo above shows a logged portion; I didn't feel right taking photos of houses that had been burned. Nor did I feel right about taking pictures of people living in travel trailers where their houses had once been. Survivor guilt?

Joni and I survived the fire. 205 houses burned; 4 0f 10 houses on our ridge burned.

This is a poor, rural area and most of those who had homes here didn't have homeowners insurance. Most of the homes are owner built. I have been told that only one house has been rebuilt thus far...but that didn't match what I observed.

What I did see was a number of modular homes going in. Plus lots of trailers. Ugly metal coffin-like homes, that stand out all the more within the logged, cleared areas.

There has been a push to allow homeowners to use their own trees and natural construction to build homes. However, I haven't seen anybody attempting to do this due to the complications of permits and lack of know how.

It takes money to build a home the way a county wants you to build one. You have to consult with architects, get loans and permits and do every thing on the up and up. The last thing a Concowian wants is to draw attention to themselves; most are highly suspicious of any sort of Government official

So instead, ugly metal trailers are brought in. Modular units are quickly put up. And life goes on.

The Concow Fire was a stand replacing fire. A dreaded Crown Fire that jumps from the tops of trees. 35,000 acres burned. It is a cash cow for the local lumber companies that have been mining the trees. Salvage Logging.

Of course, this is a natural occurrence. California needs to burn. It is right and natural: a risk you take when you choose to live in such an area. My argument would be, that if you choose to live here, do so by using local materials that are fire resistant and easily, and cheaply, replaced. Use Cob, Strawbales and local timbers. Create defensive space. Then sit back and let the fires go...


Woodswalker said...

I appreciate why folks would not want to deal with government when rebuilding. We did some renovation to our in-town home last year and every small change from the original plans (changing the size of a window, moving some steps, etc.) required a return to the zoning board with new architectural drawings at $400 apiece.

Allan Stellar said...


You are so correct on this one. This is one area where I am for reduced government (Ian, take note). Or at least changing the way we think about housing. I can understand wanting to keep the integrity of a cultural/historical area, is that what they were doing?

To me, it just seems they want to chain us to the Home Depot Industrial Complex.