California was the victim of its most devastating wildfire in 2018, which occurred in 2018. The Camp Fire, which erupted in Paradise, claimed 85 lives and destroyed nearly 20,000 homes.
But if you drive by Paradise today, you’d see signs of a revival. Mike Petersen is the Ace Hardware Store manager who somehow survived the inferno. He lost his home like many people there.
Now, he feels filled with hope whenever he looks out over his neighborhood.
“A year ago, these three homes weren’t there,” he told CBS News correspondent Ben Tracy. “A lot of people had their doubts about how many people would rebuild. It’s nice to see the progress for sure.”
Petersen isn’t just rebuilding an ordinary home—he’s rebuilding one that he hopes will withstand future fires. He and his wife are moving into a two bedroom house that resembles an old barn. They appreciate the architecture, but its main draw is that it’s designed not to burn.
“Do you feel like you’re gonna worry less about your home?” Tracy asked.
“Yes. And my insurance company loves it,” Petersen responded.
Design Horizons is building the “Q Cabin,” short for “quonset hut.” It’s named after Quonset Point, a naval facility in Rhode Island where the corrugated metal-roofed buildings were first constructed during World War II.
“It’s non-combustible,” said the company’s owner, Vern Sneed. “It’s a product that you can’t really light on fire.”
Sneed claims that a Q Cabin is about the same price as a traditional 2×4 house.
“We would have a non-combustible siding out here,” he explained. “Then, we’ve got our non-combustible sheathing. Then, we’ve got our non-combustible structure. So, you would have to get through all of these non-combustible layers before you got to the inside.”
Scientists say that most homes catch fire in wildfires when embers enter between the roof shingles or window frames. The Q Cabin doesn’t have those entry points.
“I understand why you won’t call this ‘fireproof,’ because you could never guarantee that. But this is about as close as you’re gonna get?” Tracy asked.
“This is about as close as you can get,” Sneed affirmed.
Also, part of the problem is the town’s proximity to nature. Communities like Paradise are known as the Wildland Urban Interface, where the outdoors collides with a person’s front door. These areas are prone wildfires and home to nearly 50 million people.
“I think noncombustible housing is the future,” Sneed said when asked if this is the future of home-building, especially now that climate change is accelerating and natural disasters are happening more often.
The Camp Fire also did a lot to change people’s perspectives.
“I think people just let go of their need to control, because we all learned that there is no such thing,” said Gwen Nordgren, president of Paradise Lutheran Church.
The church is also constructing a four-plex Q Cabin, which will replace the parsonage that housed their pastor.
“Given what you’ve gone through, what is it like for people to see something being built back there?” Tracy asked.
“Well, it isn’t just something; it’s something like this,” Nordgren answered. “We’re so excited about it because it’s all gonna be new and beautiful and fire-resistant, which is on most people’s minds.”
Four families will rent the cabin to generate income for the church that lost nearly half its members in the wildfire. Paradise is now the fastest-growing city of California.
“Nobody who was here gave up. This is Paradise. Never give up. There’s a spirit in this town that was here before the fire, and that’s here now, and it never went away,” Nordgren said.
Click the video to learn more about these homes that are fire resistant.
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