Greener homes: Rebuilding Santa Rosa one year after the fires

The Camp Fire in Northern California is now the deadliest and most destructive fire in California history. For most Californians, this milestone is starting to sound all too familiar.

While the Camp Fire victims are dealing with the immediate aftermath of a disaster, people affected by last year’s Wine Country fires are in the middle of a long and arduous rebuilding process. It’s a cycle that some people think we’ll need to get used to in this fire-prone state. But, one silver lining: starting over means an opportunity to build differently, with the environment and climate change in mind.

Sonoma Clean Power program manager Rachel Kuykendall thinks big changes can be made if Santa Rosa rebuilds with cleaner energy options, like electric power versus gas.

“Right when the fires hit, it was actually very interesting because we’re a bit unique as a utility. We’re not for profit and really our mission is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” Kuykendall says.“So that was really a moment for us to step back and say, how can we help our community rebuild and how can we help them rebuild better?”

They found that if you build a house completely electric, it’s the equivalent of taking 3 cars a year off the road, so their answer was providing money for people who decide to rebuild their homes with clean power.

One person who considered taking them up on the offer is Barry Hirsch. He lives up the road from Gena Jacob and knew his home was destroyed when a friend texted him a picture the day after his family evacuated.

“I wouldn’t have known it was my place. There was nothing. You know there was nothing. It was all gone,” Hirsch says. He’s a retired contractor and knew he needed to get the ball rolling right away.

I’ve built houses my whole life, and…we had propane up here before and I had a gas water heater, gas cooktop, all that kind of stuff. And that’s what I was going to do,” he says.

But then he heard a Sonoma Clean Power talk about energy efficient homes.

Read more here: Rebuilding Santa Rosa one year after the fires