With wildfires nearly contained, scorched Calif. towns rally together

In Mountain Ranch, Calif., residents are holding weekly town-hall meetings to plan the work ahead, from arranging transportation for those stranded to sharing information on where to go for emotional support.

Andrew Seng/The Sacramento Bee/AP
Fire victim Jacki Malvini holds her cat, Pumpkin on their burned out property in Mountain Ranch, Calif., Sept. 24. Mountain Ranch, Calif. bore the brunt of a destructive Northern California wildfire and now faces its greatest test – recovering from the ravenous blaze, which destroyed more than 350 homes in the town of 1,800.

Firefighters have nearly contained two massive wildfires that sent northern California up in flames earlier this month. But as the fires die down, local residents now face the enormous task of rebuilding.

The fires were devastating. They burned more than 145,000 acres, killed four people, seriously injured at least four firefighters, and destroyed more than 1,700 homes.

Mountain Ranch, an unincorporated hamlet in Calaveras Country, bore the brunt of the Butte wildfire. The blaze destroyed 350 homes in the town of 1,800.

Yet the town’s fiercely independent residents are determined to regain all that was lost. They’ve started to hold emergency town-hall meetings once a week to plan the work ahead, from arranging transportation for those stranded to sharing information on where to go for emotional support.

"It is going to all come back," fire victim Jacki Malvini told the Associated Press. She and her husband lost their modest manufactured home in the blaze. Without fire insurance, they’ll have to rebuild from scratch.

"I haven't heard one person say for sure, 'I'm getting the hell out of here,’ ” Ms. Malvini said. “People are going to be staying."

Farther north, authorities have reopened the town of Cobb two weeks after it was hit by the Valley fire that erupted on Sept. 12 and quickly spread to 118 square miles. All roads to the rural community north of San Francisco reopened to the public on Saturday. The fire is 95 percent contained.

To help hard-hit communities such as Mountain Ranch and Cobb get back on their feet, California Governor Jerry Brown has directed $10 million from the state's budget reserve to help pay for the removal of burned debris. 

"Fast debris removal is also necessary to enable community rebuilding and economic recovery of impacted communities," Brown said in a letter to leaders of the legislature's budget and appropriations committees on Friday. The letter added that the debris poses a threat to lives, public health, and safety.

This report includes material from the Associated Press and Reuters.

of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Unlimited digital access $11/month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.