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49 Fire: Homes being rebuilt quickly

County permit speed-up, available tradespeople help spur rise from the ashes
By: Gus Thomson Journal Staff Writer
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The roar of saws and the pounding of nail guns signal rebirth in a North Auburn neighborhood devastated by last August’s 49 Fire. From wooden skeletons of homes being framed to nearly completed houses, more than 30 structures are now being built in the Parkway Drive subdivision. One home on Oak Mist Lane has been certified ready for occupancy and owner Hector Launier plans to move in this week. He had been living in a rental home since the Aug. 30 fire. Launier said builder Dusty Hawkins of Auburn’s Hawkins Construction promised to have the house done by Christmas. “I didn’t believe him, but when I saw the way things were going, I changed my mind,” Launier said. Directly in the fire’s path, parts of the Parkway Drive subdivision were reduced to ashes. But nearly four months later, work is moving toward completion on many of the replacement homes. In all, the 49 Fire took out 63 homes, burning most to the ground. This past week, a count showed more than 30 were under construction in the hard-hit Parkway subdivision. Builders and owners are crediting an expedited permit process and availability of labor and materials with the rapid rise from the ashes. Regional Builders’ Mark Thielke is overseeing construction of two homes and expects completion of the first one in the Parkway Drive neighborhood by the end of January. Work started in October and permits had been approved by Placer County’s building division within seven business days. Pacific Gas & Electric also gave building a boost by allowing existing permits on electrical work rather than code upgrades, he said. “They’ve saved a lot of time and extra work,” Thielke said. The work was welcome, although the circumstances weren’t, said Steve Holm of Auburn’s C&S Builder. His business started framing a Parkway subdivision home in early December. “I like to see the work but not because of what happened,” Holm said. “This economy is the worst I’ve seen in 35 years in building. It’s unbelievable. This helped because I didn’t have anything lined up.” Barring bad weather, Holm said the house he’s working on should be ready for occupancy by the first of March. Permits that could take a month or more were ready in two weeks, he said. “They expedited this stuff pretty good,” Holm said. The Launier home was red-tagged as a complete loss and a building permit was issued Sept. 14. Final inspection was completed Dec. 15. Other rebuilds also were given priority and the sound of a neighborhood’s rebirth soon filled the air. “We’ve done everything we can to keep the process of rebuilding moving smoothly for the victims of the 49 Fire,” said Tim Wegner, building division chief. “We’re pleased that we’ve been able to assist the victims of this fire and get them on their way to being back in their homes.” Gus Thomson can be reached at gust@goldcountrymedia.com.