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Fire victims told to rebuild or be billed

July 6, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Victims of the Cedar Glen Fire have been ordered to clean up debris on their properties or pay to have it done. City officials are hoping to spark rebuilding of some of the hundreds of homes destroyed nearly six years ago.Victims of the Cedar Glen Fire have been ordered to clean up debris on their property or pay to have it done. City officials are hoping to spark rebuilding of some of the hundreds of homes destroyed nearly six years ago.

In October 2003, a wind-driven wildfire ripped through Cedar Glen, destroying more than 300 homes. Almost six years later, there are still signs of the devastating fire everywhere. But perhaps not for long.

San Bernardino County says residents of Cedar Glen have had enough time. Now they're on notice. All of this needs to be cleaned up by the end of the month.

"It has been almost six years, these slabs and chimneys have been through not only the fire, but five winters, with a lot of snow, so they're not safe to build on, they're going to have to be removed one way or the other," said Neil Derry, San Bernardino County supervisor.

Derry says if property owners don't clean up, the county will come in and do it for them and send them the bill.

Pat Grimwood, a local resident who lost two homes in the area, calls the move heavy-handed.

"Code enforcement just came in and said we are going to come through and clean it up, and you get the bill and we won't tell you what the bill is until we're done, and you will pay it or we'll take your property," said Grimwood.

Residents say there have been a number of issues to slow rebuilding.

The access roads are very small, and some of the foundations are so small that they don't meet building code requirements.

Add in an upside-down housing market, and an economy in the dumper, and residents say they have enough problems. They don't need further pressure from the county.

"I would like to build there, I just can't afford to right now, not today, not in this market, not in this economic condition, but it is my property," said local homeowner Kevin Ryan.

So if the county plan works, chimneys and foundations will be gone by the end of the month. But the frustration of rebuilding remains, and could get even worse.

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