Since the camp fire, Mr Singer and his wife, Shannon, rent an apartment in Chico, about 20 miles away, while navigating the various headaches – insurance, zoning, construction, planning – needed to rebuild their house. They also started a nonprofit, Paradise Stronger, which is using their experience in fitness coaching to provide mental health care to residents facing trauma from the disaster. At first, they pledged to be part of Paradise’s ambitious revival plan to rebuild the entire city from the ground up, which includes more parks and green spaces, fire-fighting landscaping, and road routes. improved evacuation and warning systems.
But then came the fire season of 2020, which pushed a hellish new vocabulary into the lexicon – “mega-fire”, “hot drought”. High winds, which force preventative power cuts, are now common practice. In October, the Singers found themselves evacuating their land again, except this time the fire was both on the way and had already had its party.
“This time around, the area that was evacuated first was exactly where our house would have been,” said Mr Singer, 43. “All you could see was smoke. PTSD was rampant. “
His wife decided she had had enough.
“She turned to me and said, ‘I’m not sure I want to rebuild. I’m not sure that’s where I want to be anymore, ”Singer said. For his part, he says, he would be willing to hang in there – but not at the expense of his relationship.
“I see the vision for this city, and I want to be a part of it, but not if it means my marriage,” Singer said.
For now, the couple have hit the pause button on their rebuilding plans. If they go ahead, they also plan to spend $ 100,000 out of pocket. Their rebuilding plans are for a smaller but more fire-safe home on the same property, and the estimated cost is $ 250,000. They received $ 145,000 for the structure that burned down; like nearly 60% of American households, they learned after the fact that they were grossly underinsured.
Many insurers have also abandoned policies in areas deemed too risky: the California Department of Insurance in October reported that home insurers’ refusals to renew policies had increased by 31% statewide in 2019, and that this percentage had increased to 61% in postal codes. with high fire risk.