Community says property owners keeping them from rebuilding homes after North Bay Firestorm

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The recovery effort from last fall’s devastating North Bay wildfires continues, but neighbors in one community say their property owners are keeping them from rebuilding their homes.

Dozens of residents at the Orchards Mobile Home Park in Santa Rosa have filed a class action lawsuit against the owners of the park.

Residents there are over 55 years of age. Many lost their homes to last fall’s fires, and they are still not sure when they will be able to rebuild.

At the mobile home park, a large swath of land sits vacant behind a chain link fence. The Tubbs Fire swept through this area, destroying dozens of homes in the park.

Since then, all of the debris has been removed and some restoration work is completed, but neighbors say the recovery is going too slowly.

On Monday a group of residents from the Orchards filed a class action complaint against Hometown America Management Corporation, which owns the park.

The lawsuit claims, among other things, that Hometown America has delayed in allowing plaintiffs to move back into the community, resulting in it being financially infeasible for them to do so.

“It’s frustrating,” said Carol Spear, who lost her home in the fire.

Since the fire, Spear has had to move around.

“First in (a) hotel for three months, and now, I’m renting a room from someone at church,” Spear said.

She says that since last October, there has been very little communication with Hometown America, and she still doesn’t know when she will be able to move back in.

She also says management has told residents that they may need to start paying rent in September, even if the land is still vacant.

“A lot of people can’t afford it because they can’t afford to pay two rents where they are staying and at the Orchard, even when there’s nothing on the lot,” Spear said.

KRON4 reached out to Hometown America Management Corporation, which is based in Chicago, but no one was available to comment for this story.

Carol says she’s ready to rebuild and hopes the lawsuit will encourage Hometown America to work faster. 

“Just need to get the process going quicker,” Spear said.

Spear says that about 70 out of 233 homes were destroyed by the fire.

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