REBUILDING AFTER THE NAPA WILDFIRE

by Eric James Ratinoff on Aug. 10, 2018

 General Practice 

Summary: One of the most important things to do to heal after a tragic wildfire loss is rebuild. Wildfire victims are often eager to refocus their energy on something positive to avoid falling into the despair of losing a family home that was filled with cherished memories and belongings.

One of the most important things to do to heal after a tragic wildfire loss is rebuild. Wildfire victims are often eager to refocus their energy on something positive to avoid falling into the despair of losing a family home that was filled with cherished memories and belongings. As ready as a homeowner may be to initiate this process, however, it can be a difficult one to navigate in the aftermath of a wildfire as devastating as the 2017 North Bay Fires.

The County of Napa is answering some of the most common questions residents ask about rebuilding after the Atlas Fire, Nuns Fire and Tubbs Fire ravaged Napa in October of last year. Below are some of the answers we’ve found to be helpful to our clients.

Can I rebuild a structure that has been destroyed by fire?

Any legal structure that was destroyed by fire can be legally rebuilt. Regardless of the age of the structure, the most current building code requirements will be required for all rebuilds. If you plan on expanding or relocating your structure, you will need to check with the Napa County Planning Division to get the steps required for approval.=

Will I need a Building Permit in order to repair a damaged structure?

Yes, even if the structure was not destroyed, you will need a permit to repair the damaged structure. A Permit is required for repairs and construction pursuant to State Code (2016 California Residential Code, Section R105.1).

Are the Permit processing fees reduced for 2017 Napa wildfire victims?

The Planning, Building, and Environmental Services Director have reduced fees in the following amounts for all building permits submitted after October 7, 2017, for structures damaged or destroyed in the 2017 Napa Fire Complex:

  • Plan Review – Environmental Health Fee by 50%; and
  • Plan Review – Engineering Fee by 50%; and
  • Plan Review – Planning Fee by 50%; and
  • Plan Review – Standard by 50%; and
  • Imaging Plan Retention by 100%; and
  • Permit Issuance by 100%; and
  • Building Inspection by 25%; and
  • General Plan Surcharge by 100%.

To qualify for a fee reduction, the structure must meet all of the following criteria:

  • The original structure must have been legally established; and
  • The original structure must have been red- or yellow-tagged by the County as a structure damaged or destroyed in the 2017 Napa Fire Complex; and
  • The applicant must submit a complete building permit application to repair or replace the damaged or destroyed structure.

Development impact fees for schools and affordable housing do not apply to reconstruction of an existing structure with the same floor area. Impact fees would only apply to additional floorplan area that extends beyond the original structure, ie. for an additional bedroom or office.

Can a structure be rebuilt on a fire-damaged foundation?

Homeowners with an existing foundation system that was not totally destroyed by the fire will be required to have a “suitability analysis” performed by a registered civil or structural engineer. This analysis must state that the engineer has visited the site and investigated the condition of the existing foundation and building elements. The analysis must also state that the remaining foundation can support a new structure, and that all drain, waste, vent, water, mechanical, electrical, and other under-slab utility systems are suitable for use. You will be required to replace all under-slab electrical conductors, but electrical conduits may remain.

Provided the new foundation does not rely on the structural integrity of the old foundation, you can also opt to leave your damaged foundation in place and enclose the old foundation with a new foundation.

For more Napa County Fire Marshal Rebuild Requirements, visit the Napa County Fire Marshal Website.

What is one of the first steps I should take to start the rebuild process?

One of the first things Napa County suggests is to contact the Napa County Fire Marshal’s office to have your roadway/driveway evaluated.  Napa County is requiring that every roadway/driveway be evaluated to ensure it was not a contributing factor in delaying first responders from accessing the residence.  The roadway/driveway will also be inspected to ensure it is safe for evacuation during any future disasters.  

To have your driveway evaluated call the Napa County Fire Marshal’s office at 707-299-1464.  

Wildfire Attorneys Helping Napa Residents Rebuild

Many Napa home and business owners are realizing that their insurance policies are not sufficient to rebuild what was lost. As we have done for hundreds of Northern California families impacted by preventable wildfires, we are helping many Napa residents through the rebuild process with advice, free insurance policy reviews, and providing alternative options for financial recovery.

Our experienced wildfire attorneys can estimate the value of your damaged property and the costs of repairing or rebuilding. We can communicate with insurance companies, file claims, and work with claims that insurers have unfairly delayed or denied. Our team will work hard to obtain maximum compensation for your losses. 

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