The 2018 Camp Fire was the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history, causing at least 85 fatalities and destroying more than 18,000 structures. Severe drought in the area was a significant factor in the spread of the fire.
One of the destroyed structures was the home of Gary Ledbetter, who, along with his wife, had moved into their new house in Paradise, California, a mere 10 days earlier.
However, instead of moving somewhere else, the Ledbetters decided to rebuild in the exact same spot — with a house that is as resistant to wildfire damage as possible. Now, their new home has become the first in California to receive a Wildfire Prepared Home Plus designation under the Wildfire Prepared Home program of the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety.
“Most [insurance] companies will not write a policy in Paradise,” Ledbetter told Bloomberg News. “Had we not got all of the improvements and efforts to create a resilient home, the underwriter probably would not have touched us.”
The wildfire-resistant steps that the Ledbetters took included a “Class-A” fire-resistant roof with mounted sprinklers, ember-resistant vents, fireproof doors and windows, and a fireproof garage door.
In addition, the house is surrounded by a 5-foot, noncombustible zone made of gravel and concrete — essentially a moat, but for fire.
All of these upgrades cost extra money — and that’s on top of building an entirely new house from scratch — but the peace of mind (and the ability to get insured) made it worth it for the Ledbetters. They also did as much of the work themselves as possible and relied on family members for services and support.
Unfortunately, not everyone who loses their home to an extreme weather event is as lucky.
“I feel I built this house at as low a cost as possible, and I don’t think that’s available to most people, and I still struggle, I’m still not done,” Ledbetter told Action News Now. “My heart goes out to the public, to the average person that has to hire a contractor.”
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