Wildfire victims move into new Yuba County homes | TheUnion.com

Wildfire victims move into new Yuba County homes

Chris Kaufman
Special to The Union

It's been a moving week for Jim DeGraff.

DeGraff, 53, is among the first Loma Rica residents to move into their new homes after the devastating October 2017 wildfires consumed more than 100 homes in the Yuba County foothills community.

"I was going to rebuild no matter what, there was no option, this is home," he said. "We lost a lot of memories in the fire but we'll make new ones."

DeGraff, who lost his home and a couple animals in the blazes, has lived on the 6-acre property with his wife and daughter for more than 12 years.

“I was going to rebuild no matter what, there was no option, this is home.”

— Jim DeGraff

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"This was my parent's property and my brother lives next door," he said. "Most people are rebuilding now — one guy has his shop back up and another woman just got the plans for her house."

DeGraff said it's encouraging to see that most people are rebuilding and wants others who are on the fence to stay and rebuild.

"We moved back up here into our trailer in December and started rebuilding as soon as possible," he said. "I did all the infrastructure on my own."

As a retired millwright who worked on powerhouses, DeGraff possessed the skills and desire to make his property and home right again.

"The whole house was destroyed but now we've got a modular home on a new foundation," he said. "We've been in it three nights."

An aggregate driveway leads up to the freshly painted home and the DeGraff's are still furnishing the interior to their liking.

"My wife loves this kitchen and it's her domain," DeGraff said. "I'll be fixing all the fencing on the property so my daughter can bring her animals back here."

DeGraff is a member of the Foothill Lions Club, one of many groups that's a driving force in helping residents rebuild their lives after the fires.

"Jim is moving in right now and he's set up pretty good," said president Linda Saala. "I saw him on Tuesday night and he's very excited — they're doing well."

Saala said the club's efforts have raised more than $36,000 and have already distributed an additional $18,000 to help survivors.

"This is their money and we help to get people whatever they need — we're here for you," she said. "We got a trailer for a woman who needed one and we got another person a power pole."

She said one resident, who lost his home in the fires, has been helping other people set up their wells and they were able to compensate him for some of the work.

"ACE hardware up here has been helping a lot and the Sutter-Yuba Association of Realtors got some water tanks for residents who needed them," she said.

Numerous organizations, companies, and government agencies are involved in the rebuilding process.

"Habitat has attended town hall meetings, met with the County of Yuba, PG&E and Friends Helping Friends to coordinate the needs assessment and planning for the work ahead," said John Nicoletti, with Habitat for Humanity Yuba/Sutter. "We are participating in monthly Habitat for Humanity's Disaster Relief for all of California fires — this has been a great resource."

He said Habitat for Humanity has a process to register for assistance and anyone can visit the ReStore and the Family Services Department to get started on the screening process, which helps with prioritization.

Chris Kaufman is a staff writer for the Marysville Appeal-Democrat. Contact him at ckaufman@appealdemocrat.com.

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