Neighbors surprised when Guerneville home slips off foundation

Some Guerneville residents were startled Thursday when a neighbor's house suddenly slipped off its moorings and slid down a hill.

"My wife was home and said it sounded like an explosion," said Jerry Wanlin, whose home sits in the direct path of the sliding structure. "We're hoping it doesn't roll down the rest of the way." 

Fire officials who responded at about 1 pm closed Old Monte Rio Road, directly below the house, for safety. 

The unstable structure, at 17875 Santa Rosa Avenue, is vacant and was undergoing an extensive renovation.

Inspectors have now declared it off-limits.  

"The fire department came and red-tagged it and everybody is looking at it," said neighbor Richard Smith, who is in contact with the homeowner who lives in Utah. 

"He's at a loss, he doesn't want to know what to do."

Neighbors say the property owner flies in frequently to work on the house, with the intention of living there eventually.

They report hearing a jack-hammer under the house recently, and wonder if the construction made it vulnerable to runoff from last Sunday's rain.

"I know he was doing work under there," said neighbor Jason DeBrovner. "I don't know if it benefitted the house by planting it more, or undermined it, but that storm definitely played a big role."

The Russian River area received between 8 to 12 iinches of rain over the course of the storm.

"There was so much water coming through here with that atmospheric river, these ditches and drains couldn't handle it," said neighbor

Jason Acree.

In the steep, wooded canyons of west Sonoma County, falling trees are also a big concern during and after storms.

Thursday afternoon, a redwood toppled near Duncan Mills, damaging a house, and the tenant's Jeep.

He wasn't injured, but expressed dismay at the damage to his vehicle.

"I just fixed my car, it had a cracked back axle and I just fixed it two weeks ago," said Robert Whitestone, "and now the whole right side is crushed."

It's unclear if the sliding home outside Guerneville can be saved or will be demolished, but right now, the thick forest seems to be all that's holding it in place.

And erosion from future storms remains a worry.

"It's a concern because the water races down our hill and it really picks up force and it can be very destructive," said Wanlin, "and when I talk to county workers about dealing with it they say they're under-manned, drastically under-manned."

Many river area homes were built on stilts as vacation cabins decades ago, so age and deterioration can be factors.

"It's Mother Nature," said Wanlin. "And it's beautiful to live here but there seem to be trade-offs."