Butte County Elected Leaders Enact Rules To Help Fire Victims

Dec 11, 2018

Last month's damage caused by the Camp Fire in Paradise, Calif.
Credit Marc Albert

Elected leaders in Butte County heard financial estimates of the Camp Fire’s destruction, and enacted rules aimed at helping get fire victims back on their feet, and indoors. 

 

 

It is now legal to live in a trailer or a so-called accessory building---at least for the time being in Butte County---as officials start coming to grips with the loss of roughly 15 percent of habitable dwellings in the county.  

 

 The ruling voids some restrictions in the county zoning ordinance, and allows temporary trailer parks to open and operate through the end of 2020. The ruling also lets people live in trailers without utility and sewage hook-ups for 180 days.  

 

The board also approved rules seriously impacting fire victims that decline federal and state offers to remove debris from their properties. Those who refuse free FEMA debris removal will be held to the same standards, but would be stuck with whatever part of the bill not covered by insurance. Under the official program, FEMA pays whatever insurance doesn’t. 

 

In any case, confusion, fears that valuable items are vanishing, and general distrust of government and FEMA in particular, has left some property owners refusing to sign ‘right-of-entry’ forms. Some are reluctant as they have unable to search for valuables amidst the wreckage.  

 

Paradise resident Thomas Wahl, who temporarily relocated to Ukiah, vented his frustration. He said an insurance adjuster is pushing him to settle and he has to deal with an alphabet soup of agencies and closing deadlines, and he can’t even view what’s left. 

 

“I’m going to be able to go back in, eventually, I hope before Christmas, and get things that people haven’t stolen yet from San Mateo and these jokers that are coming in, walking all over my property.” Wahl said. 

  

The new rule holds property owners to the same standard as government entities.   

As a lively debate developed, County Counsel Bruce Alpert interjected. 

 

“This is a matter of public safety, it’s a matter of your neighbor’s property values, it’s a matter of getting the community back to where it can be rebuilt." he explained. "People will not get building permits and people will not be able to get their lives back in order, unless this is done properly.”  

 

In other action, the board approved fee waivers for vital records and a small change in pension contributions made by sheriff’s deputies.   

 

They also approved an 18 home subdivision opposed by neighbors south of Chico. 

Debate of a proposal regulating short term and vacation rentals was postponed.