Officials preview recovery process as SQF Complex becomes largest fire in Tulare County history

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Tulare County Fire Chief Charlie Norman stated a sobering fact at Tuesday's county board of supervisors meeting.

The SQF Complex, made up of the Castle and Shotgun fires, is now the largest fire in Tulare County history.

It's also the most destructive, with 173 homes and cabins lost, and dozens of smaller structures also gone.

Norman says residents are anxious to return.

"We want to make sure we get people up there," Norman said. "And that's what people are restless about."

Crews are not only still fighting the blaze.

They're also clearing debris and hazardous trees to make the mountain communities safe to return to once evacuation orders are lifted.

As far as the overall recovery effort, Chief Norman says there are basically two groups of people who will need help in the weeks and months to come.

There are those going back to homes and cabins that were saved in communities like Camp Nelson and Ponderosa.

And those who lost their properties in Cedar Slope, Alpine Village, and Sequoia Crest.

"The populated communities will have water systems, environmental health concerns that we can try and take care of before they go back into the structure," Norman said. "The other ones are going to be a total structure loss where they're going to need building services, cleanup, and also environmental health to make sure they can start the rebuilding process."

Amelia Marshall's family cabin in Sequoia Crest was consumed by the Castle Fire on September 13th.

"We just crossed our fingers and luck was not with us, nature took over," Marshall said.

Marshall knows fires tend to leave behind a toxic mess, so hopes professional teams can haul the hazardous material out before it has an opportunity to seep into the ground below.

She's also optimistic that other phases of the recovery process will be as painless as possible.

"Many of our neighbors in the affected mountain communities have been talking about their desire to rebuild with fire resistant materials," she said. "So we are hoping that the public agencies in the counties will streamline the process of people getting building permits that are affordable so those fine communities can be restored."

Recovery efforts may just be starting, but Tulare County has formed a recovery task force and also set up a new website with resources for those affected by the SQF Complex.
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