Housing crisis looms in wake of Valley Fire

MIDDLETOWN, Calif. (KTVU) -- As people return to the Lake County burn area, the reality for the many homeless is becoming starkly apparent: a looming housing crisis brought about by the firestorm.

Long time Lake County residents Danielle Fletcher and her boyfriend were already homeless, camping out near Cobb, when the fire caused her to flee for her life.

They ended up at the Calistoga evacuee camp with absolutely nothing.

"Our big thing is we lost our only vehicle and everything we owned in it," said Fletcher.

The Fairgrounds Evacuee Camp closes Thursday.

"We're gonna go to Hidden Valley because we have an animal. We're gonna go there and start on the resources again there," said Fletcher.

Denise Erikson lost her rental home just across from the Shell Station where she works.

"I believe that if I wasn't working right now, I'd probably being going crazy, sitting around feeling sorry for myself. But there's so much going on with all the other people in the community, it just feels good help them as well and to try not to think about what's happened," said Erickson.

She is lucky. Friends lent her a mobile trailer for as long as she needs it and the gas station owner, who owns her rental home, says he'll rebuild it for her.

But with so many homes burned, where will those who lost their living spaces go?

"I think it's gonna be really difficult at first because we're already limited on the available amount of rentals available and just homes for sale in general," said Jennifer Mullin, a Century 21 Northbay Alliance realtor and lifelong resident of Middletown.

The county wants banks to rent foreclosed properties in the area. But according to HUDforeclosures.com, there are only 42 foreclosures in all of Lake County and just a meager 13 foreclosures for sale in the fire area that includes Middletown, Hidden Valley Lake and Cobb.

"It's a very small community and it's mostly single family homes, some duplexes and very small amount of apartments," said Mullin. "The rebuilding has just begun. We really don't know how long it's gonna take. But I would say at least about two years; one to two years."

Sadly, almost all apartments were rented before the firestorm.

Danielle Fletcher may be hoping against hope that she'll find something.

"I tried planning, there's really, you can plan right now. I'm learning to follow faith a lot more now." said Fletcher.

Fortunately, as folks acquire trailers, large tents or other living spaces, the tidal wave of donations is being move from Calistoga to Lake County so people can set up housekeeping.

Linda Davis is with the Center for Volunteer and Non-Profit Leadership that's heading up that part of the recovery.

"Not only all the stuff that's here, but we also have people who want to give donations of furniture. Everything that's being donated is going to the evacuees and their families. Nothing is being sent anywhere else," said Davis.

Fletcher, who was only left with her dog, will take whatever she can get.

"I'm willing to accept it. Yes, of course I am, for real. I really am. And I hope we have something we can accept." she said.