What's being done to start rebuilding homes destroyed in Erskine Fire

A meeting was held on Wednesday at Faith Community Church to discuss how to move into the next phase of recovery from the Erskine Fire.

The Kern Valley Long Term Recovery Group said the next phase of recovery is to start to rebuild homes. The meeting was a way to begin the entire construction phase.

"We're kicking off the construction phase of the long-term recovery effort for the Erskine Fire," said Justin Powers, co-chair of the Kern Valley Long Term Recovery Group. "We're looking to try and bring a lot of these families that don't have the resources to recover themselves, and are in high risk populations to try to help them rebuild and put them into safe, functional housing for long term."

Powers said the recovery group has been going for a while, and they have not used the recovery funds because they were building a foundation for all the work that needed to be done.

"We've been building a foundation with case management, and with working directly with the families to get them back to a state of recovery," Powers said.

Powers said there are about $200,000 available to use for recovery. He said the funds all came from local fundraising.

As for what's next, Powers said the recovery committee is looking to hire a construction coordinator who can help organize all of the moving parts.

The recovery group is also applying for grants to get more money, gathering the details about what they will need to build, and getting volunteers, and vetting Erskine survivors.

"For the construction effort we're absolutely looking for volunteers that are skilled contractors, skilled laborers, contractors with permits to help with the building process," Powers said. "In addition, just volunteers that can just perform manual labor and show up really and willing to work."

The recovery group said they are working with Mennonite Disaster Service and Habitat for Humanity to rebuild the homes. The organizations have offered to do the labor for free.

The recovery group does not know how many homes they will realistically be able to build, and if they will use the money to building frame homes or mobile homes.

Logistics are still being figured out. Powers said this process requires a lot of planning and patience.

"It does seem like it takes time, it takes more time than I would like it to, but when you compare it to some of the other disasters that have happened around the state and country, we're kind of in the ballpark for the timeline of where we need to be," Powers said. "There is nothing quick about long-term recovery, and so that is something that is going to take time."

The Construction Management Committee said they will meet again at 11 a.m. on Feb. 15 at Faith Community Church.

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