Rebuilding efforts are slow in Berry Creek 3 years after the Bear Fire
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AVA NORGROVE, ANCHOR:
Tomorrow (Friday, Sept. 8) marks three years since the Bear Fire, later known as the North Complex, destroyed much of the communities of Berry Creek and Feather Falls. NSPR's Alec Stutson reports that for some, rebuilding has been painfully slow.
ALEC STUTSON, REPORTER:
Maggie Mathies has lived in Berry Creek for nearly 50 years. But nearly three years after the Bear Fire, she's the only one living on her road.
MATHIES: “Nobody's come back. I'm the only one."
She returned to Berry Creek last October after being displaced for two years. She got a trailer from the nonprofit Northern Valley Catholic Social Service. She was also one of a handful selected for a Habitat for Humanity grant loan program to get a mobile home on the property in the near future.
Without these programs supporting her, she says she wouldn't have been able to rebuild.
MATHIES: "We're starting over really, is what we're doing. It's a process. I don't see a lot of people being able to afford it — without help."
Rosaura Reyes is a program supervisor with Northern Valley Catholic Social Service, which helps residents find financial support for rebuilding projects, and provides things like food, water and clothes.
She says a lack of insurance in the area has kept many from rebuilding as quickly as they would like.
REYES: "So Camp Fire happened, insurances dropped a lot of our clients that were affected by the North Complex fires. So they didn’t have insurance so all the kind of financial support they had is what they had in their savings, and then what little they got from FEMA, if they were able to apply for FEMA at the time."
Last winter's weather was an extra burden on Berry Creek residents.
REYES: "We had a lot of rain, we had a lot of snow, much flooding going on. And the terrain in areas that were impacted by fires aren't very sturdy. So there's a lot of mud and erosion that happens."
One of the biggest needs in the area? Gravel. Most of the roads in Berry Creek aren't paved, and are littered with ruts and potholes.
Daniel Manson had to use an ATV to get around his land, since his dirt driveway was too steep and loose for trucks to drive on it. He's requesting gravel for his property. It's part of his preparation for the winter ahead.
MANSON: "So I'm about to be cutting up firewood. Getting it split up. Getting ready for winter to hunker down. It's a comin'! Rain's a comin'."
Residents like Manson say they'll continue rebuilding their homes, however long it takes.