It has been over a month since the wildfires have been extinguished in Sonoma and Napa Counties. Thus, I wanted to share with you a few more words of wisdom that I learned from my own wildfire recovery process. The following thoughts make up what I consider to be the second step, or phase, of pulling life back together and moving forward after a fire. My property in Sonoma sustained both full destruction and partial destruction to land and structures many years ago, so hopefully, something here can be of help to you.
Recall and Build Your Team
- Recall, Record and Research: Begin the process of remembering the contents or state of your home/property before the fire. Home insurance companies usually have a template for this or you can create a spreadsheet. I have provided an example below of one that I used. In my case, I went about the process of visualizing the interior and exterior of my home that had burned down completely. For the structures that had been damaged, and the land, I looked for drawings and markers which confirmed the original footprint.
- After you have a general scheme of the areas affected, focus your visualization upon opening the drawers in your mind and recording what you see inside: This takes a little time. It is important to include closets, work rooms and jewelry boxes just as they had looked the last time you saw them. The reason for this is to either replace or be reimbursed for what is lost/damaged. Next, write down an estimated value of the item when you purchased it and what it would cost to replace now. In my case, I had a lawsuit against the entity found responsible for the fire, so this information was critical. It is quite important to start this as soon as possible, while your memory is most fresh. Pictures and video are helpful, but many times your memory is most accurate.
Gather professionals who will comprise the Recovery Team: The Following are a few of the general categories which I used to build a team. Each group then contained the consultants and contractors who worked with me during the recovery process.
- erosion control and soil consultant
- survey company
- logging company
Trees and Landscaping
- forester, tree or vine consultant
- landscaping company, for drawings of original gardens/land plan
- tree removal service
- consultant analysis of grape acreage
- soil analysis
This is a view from my property after the fire clean-up effort and a recent photo of the hills at dusk
- debris removal company
- plumbing repair contractor
- contaminated soil removal business
- building contractor
- well and pump repair business
- painting contractor, exterior and interior
- smoke damage cleaning contractor
- pool contractor, for pool and pool cover
- leak detection company
- heating contractor
- rug/furniture cleaning service
- mail box provider
- glass repair company
- gate repair business
- structural engineer
- contractor to rebuild
- architect for replacement and repair
- septic construction company
- specialty contractor for unique structures
- water tank consultant
- insurance agent
- real estate appraisers and consultants
Other (this could be press or television)
- video to document
- film from television station
- district attorney
- mediation specialist
- soil and tree analysis representative
- forester (I had over 100 acres of land burn)
- land appraiser
Signs of gratitude
Hopefully, your situation is not as complicated as what I sustained, and you do not need to enlist the help of all these professionals. Looking back though, it is the pulling together of these wonderful people, and companies, which begins the most rewarding part of wildfire recovery. I had team meetings, group lunches and many mornings of strong coffee with donuts. With a spirit of acceptance and gratitude the process moves along. In many ways, this can be considered an adventure; it certainly was for me. Obviously, each phase has many elements; when moving from one to the next, a true sense of accomplishment and success is apparent. This is the unexpected beauty of wildfire recovery.
As I have mentioned previously, please let me know here, or send me an email, if I can be of any help to you.
Wishing you a Happy Holiday Season.