After the Firestorm - NBC 7 San Diego

After the Firestorm

Nearly half of homes lost still awaiting permits



    Three ways La Jolla UTC delivers on what employees really want
    A viewer submitted photo from the October 2007 firestorm.

    Exactly one year after they lost their Rancho Bernardo home in the Witch Creek Fire, the Levine family is finally moving into their new house.

     The home of Neil and Barbara Levine was the only one that burned in their cul-de-sac on Chieftain Court.  The Levines say when they evacuated they never thought they'd lose everything.
    "It was just a random fluke. Embers flying, they catch one thing, then another thing and they fly over and I think, in our case, probably caught our wood fence," said Barbara Levine.
    They're excited about moving into their new place, but still struggle to come to terms with what they lost.
    "For me, the childhood memories, my children's artwork, the family photos --.I had recipes which sounds funny to some people -- but those are part of your tradition," said Barbara. 
    "You never really think you're going to lose your house. We said, 'Alright, we'll take what we think we need, we'll be back.' That was my last  thought," said Neil Levine.
    He said he'll never forget the moment he learned from a police officer that he was wrong.  
    "There were three people next to me.  Then, I'll never forgetm he looked at them and said, 'Yours are OK.'  Then he looked and me and he said, 'I have some bad news -- yours is gone.'  And I couldn't believe it.  I went completely numb because I had never expected in my whole life that that would happen," Neil said.

    Tuesday morning, San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders toured the Levine's new home. He said he's impressed with how the people of Rancho Bernardo have come together through this crisis.  Still, nearly half of the people who lost homes in San Diego don't even have the permits yet to re-build.

    "Insurance companies don't make money by giving it away and I think they've been pretty tough on people. And that is something we knew was going to happen. And I think some people have done pretty well. Some I think were probably under-insured and the economy has not made it easy for anybody," explained Sanders.
    The Levines believe the city and county still need to come up with a more effective way of communicating with residents. They'd like to see sirens in addition to the reverse 911 system. 
    In the areas that burned, less than ten percent of the people received calls. 
    "While I'm thrilled to be moving in here, I still don't feel safe because now I know I could have the whole neighborhood burning and I might not be told," said Barbara Levine.