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The DREAM HOMES Community & The Wildfires
While several of our staffers were evacuated, none of our homes were damaged or destroyed. Many of us, as well as our advertising clients, hosted evacuees in our residences. My wife and I hosted eight friends from Carmel Valley – including two children under age three and two giant but well-behaved dogs. Unfortunately, we know of at least two clients whose homes burned down. In addition, several of the homes that have been advertised in DREAM HOMES were destroyed.

We are committed to educating our readers about fireproofing their homes and helping those in need navigate through the intricacies of rebuilding. We will be doing this through our print magazines and articles on our website. You can help us by giving us your input, experiences, opinions, questions, advice for other homeowners, and problems you are encountering by visiting our newly established blog. If you have a problem – such as getting the runaround from an insurance agency – tell us! You can access our blog by clicking here.

Ideas: Fire-Resistant Areas
The controversial defensive fireproofing program known as “Shelter in Place” – designed to allow people in fire-prone areas to safely stay in their homes if they cannot evacuate – proved to work during the San Diego County wildfires. Although several homes in Rancho Santa Fe burned down, none did in five relatively new developments that were constructed under the Shelter in Place concepts. These five subdivisions include: The Bridges, The Crosby, Cielo, Santa Fe Valley, and 4S Ranch. The common requirements for houses built in Shelter in Place communities include noncombustible roofs, indoor fire sprinklers, wide roads and driveways to accommodate firefighting equipment, and 100 feet of defensible space around each home with irrigated, fire-resistant plants. One hundred feet of defensible space, by the way, became law in California in 2005. Obviously, it is not being enforced. Many San Diegans don’t have 100 feet to devote to defensible space. For more information and suggestions on creating defensible space, click here.
There isn’t much we, as citizens, can do about the private property of others, but we at Dream Homes believe that county officials can be doing more in regard to fireproofing public property. From our offices near Mission Bay, we easily can see lots of very dry brush and trees hugging Interstate 5. It is this very scenario that causes fires to cross freeways when it is windy; it’s what happened in Fallbrook. In the months and years ahead, we hope that planners will consider 1,000-foot “dead zones” around major thoroughfares, parks, and other public works in fire-prone areas. This would mean replacing existing landscape with gravel, cacti, and – yes – concrete, all of which will be less costly to maintain, as well.  
Let’s Keep Things In Perspective
Property damage estimates from these fires are currently in excess of $1 billion, and would have been much less than that if San Diego were not such a high-priced real estate market. This amount also pales in comparison to some other recent natural disasters, such as 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, $86 billion; 1989’s Bay Area/Loma Prieta earthquake, $12 billion; and 1992’s Hurricane Andrew in Florida, $22.3 billion. But in those events, like ours, you can’t put a price on sentimental items that were lost.
Many Thanks...
We are in awe and admiration of the way the people in our county pulled together as one. We especially want to extend our gratitude to the following:
  • Firefighters – some 9,000 men and women from this county, other California counties, and other states once again put themselves in harm’s way to save our lives and our homes.

  • City, county, and federal officials who learned from other national disasters, resulting in the orderly evacuation of more than one-half million people.

  • The evacuees. About 560,000 people heeded the suggestion or the order to evacuate and did the responsible thing – they packed up what they could and left. We realize that some people who stayed did manage to save their own homes, especially in areas where professional firefighting personnel were stretched too thin. However, some of the people who refused to leave interfered with firefighting efforts because they had to be rescued by vital personnel.

  • The generous people of San Diego County who offered shelter, cash, food, hygienic items, bedding, blankets, toys, emotional support, and medical assistance – often to perfect strangers.

  • Local businesses. Scores of restaurants and retail shops donated such items as pizzas and pet food. Hotels offered special “evacuation” rates and eased their restrictions on pets.

  • Corporate America, for their generous donations of cash and supplies.

  • The Small Business Administration (SBA). Not just homes were destroyed or damaged – many small businesses were, as well. The SBA announced a program in which business owners can borrow up to $1.5 million at a fixed rate of four percent to rebuild or repair. Most loan applications will be processed within two weeks. That wasn’t the case after Katrina. Please call San Diego County's SBA-sponsored SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) at (619) 557-7272 to apply for a loan.
Stay classy, San Diego!
Story by Michael Blassis, Group Publisher
Photography by Bob Thompson, Latara Dragoo, and Michael Blassis

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