Regulations keep Forest Fire Victims from Rebuilding

One of my stronger memories from 2003 is listening to talk show host Roger Hedgecock, who is based in San Diego, describe the enormity of the forest fires that took place in California last November.

As luck would have it, Hedgecock guest-hosted the Rush Limbaugh program at the time, so millions of Americans like myself, for whom the forest fires were a far-away story, suddenly felt as though we were part of it.

It was an illusion, of course. Most Americans weren’t part of it at all. We went back to our daily lives and our air-conditioned houses while the victims of the California forest fires, like the victims of other forest fires, were left to pick up the pieces.

Only in some cases, it seems, the victims aren’t being allowed to pick up the pieces. the government won’t let them.

As readers of this blog may recall, last November I shared the story of Ron Nehring, who once served with great distinction here at The National Center as Project 21’s director.

Ron’s home these days is in San Diego County. He had the ill-luck to be in a neighborhood that was hit hard, though he had more luck than many of his neighbors: His house survived.

I heard from Ron today. Here’s part of what he told me:

“They just started work on the first new/rebuilt house on my street.

About ten other neighbors are still living in motor homes…

Many homes in my general vicinity will not be rebuilt because the building code for septic systems, etc. has been so radically changed since the homes were first built 40 years ago.

In Harbison Canyon and Crest, people are on septic systems rather than sewers. The parameters for those systems are such that some people will not be permitted to rebuild because their homes are too close to one another, and no sewer system installation is likely any time soon.

Many of these same homeowners were uninsured.

Hence, because of these policies, they went from owning a home on a parcel, to owning a worthless piece of land on which they can’t build anything.

Way to go, government.

First, idiotic government policies help lead to monster forest fires (see our Forest Policy Information Center for more details). Then, government steps in the way of people who are trying to recover.

I’m not surprised this atrocity isn’t getting attention here in the East, but Ron tells me it isn’t getting much publicity in California, either.

Maybe we bloggers should spread the word.

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