First Thomas Fire rebuild in Ventura is underway

The Fuller’s are number one.

by Richard Lieberman

Six months ago, the Thomas Fire raged through communities in Ventura County. Burning nearly 282,000 acres and destroying 1,063 homes and buildings. Today in our on-going series we examine the re-building process of one homeowner in the Scenic Way Dr., community. Homeowners Ed and Sandy Fuller are the first homeowners to receive re-build permit approval from the city.

We met Ed and Sandy Fuller at the site of their destroyed home, burned to the ground during the fire. The re-build had already begun, and the organized chaos of the job site was evident. A new structure on the property was already in the final stages. The small out-building will serve as Ed Fuller’s workshop, and office during the re-build process. Still remnants of the destructive fire could be seen around and on the site. Burned shrubs, the remnants of burned and disfigured trees and plants all a reminder of the devastation the fires caused.

“There is no sense in grieving about it for a long time the loss was the loss.” Fuller said. “The reality is its just things and things can be replaced” he added. Like others the Fullers were glad that they got out safe. “We did get out with a few of our photos, some of our important documents, we had enough time.” said Fuller. The Fullers even managed to get out with a few paintings that held sentimental value to them. They evacuated to a friend’s house on the same street and the house didn’t start to burn until three in the morning” said Sandy Fuller. “All we could see was this huge fireball wafting across our property.”

One possession that meant a great deal to Ed was a wooden toolbox that his grandfather had made that was in his woodshop that burned to the studs. “To me it was big deal.” Added Fuller. After getting to see the damage the fire caused Sandy said, “We looked at each other and said we know how to re-build we know how to do this.”

Some of the Fullers neighbors have also begun the re-building process and Fuller believes some will even surpass them on the re-builds. “Since the fire we are probably closer to our neighbors than we have been.”. he said. “We even met neighbors that we had not met before.” Added Fuller. “Now it seems like everybody knows everybody.” He added. “We try to encourage each other, this is what we did to get through this process, this is what we did to get through permitting or this is who we are using for whatever. Were all trying to help one another.” Sandy said.

Ed Fuller retired now but was a construction manager for a large oil company so “I am very familiar with the construction process. “he said. The Fullers are acting as general contractor for their re-build. Their insurance company paid only 75% of total value, and Fuller added “most contentious thing we have with the insurance company is some of the personal property.”

When asked about how the city has responded Sandy responded, “When we went into Building and Safety with our architect we took our plans to a back room and with all the department heads and they mark up the plans with what is additionally needed.” “What most people need to know is that most of the rules and guidelines are state mandated and not city rules that make the process so overwhelming.” She said.

When asked about the timeline for completion Ed said” We have an incredibly aggressive timeline with the hope of celebrating Christmas in our new home.” “We are just finishing compaction and next week we expect start laying the foundation.” Fuller said.

“The only thing I can say in conclusion, in the end this can be a very positive experience.” Ed Fuller added.

Yolanda Bundy, Chief Building Official at the Building and Safety Division, Ventura was instrumental in aiding and guiding the Fullers in expediting the permit process for the first permit to be issued for re-building after the fires.

“We’re very excited that the Fuller family is on their way to rebuilding.” “It was a true team effort” said Bundy. The detailed and comprehensive effort by the Fullers was instrumental in speeding the process. “The Fullers were very responsive and cooperative throughout the process.” Bundy added. Acting as their own general contractor the Fullers were able to present to the city plans that met the requirement of both local and state governments. “The quality of the plans provided by their design professionals was a key to successfully helping us meet our goal of issuing their permits with a 14- day business turnaround.” Bundy continued.

Bundy also commented “We want our community to know that we care about them, and that we are committed to working with both Thomas Fire Rebuild applicants and with all the other permit applicants who come into our office at city hall daily. As members of the Ventura community we take our role in helping our community build or rebuild very personally. We all need these milestones of hope right now.”

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