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Home owners take steps to rebuild neighborhoods after Erskine Fire

Posted at 2:10 PM, Jul 05, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-05 21:27:29-04

Driving around the South Lake area, it seems like the Erskine Fire tore through yesterday.

Melted metal clangs as the wind whips through the mangled structures, cars drive solemnly by the rubble and once in a while a neighbor, whose home survived, will pop their head out.

Teresa Nielson's parents owned a home in the South Lake neighborhood, which she inherited. Tuesday, she was working to fix up the place and make it livable. That includes carpet cleaning, a deep clean in the kitchen, replacing melted blinds and working on the scorched roof.

She only has one neighbor whose home also made it, but if you look around, the entire block across burned to the ground, her neighbor on the right's home melted to the floor and behind her is charred mountainside.

"If your house is standing and nobody is around it, it makes you vulnerable," Nielson said her neighbors' shed that did not burn was broken into. She is now worried about people taking advantage of the area with not as many people present.

While in South Lake 23ABC saw several fire, Edison and Kern County Sheriff's vehicles drive through the neighborhood.

Thursday will mark two weeks since more than 200 homes were destroyed and two lives taken. Wednesday will be the first day home owners can sign a release allowing the state onto their property to cart away the remains.

The Kern County Public Health Department will hold a community meeting 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Woodrow Wallace Elementary School in Lake Isabella to inform the public of the rebuilding process. 

The work will be done with no cost to the homeowners. Public Health says the state will start immediately after they get those signatures.

While some neighbors are excited to move forward and start the process to get the neighborhood back, others are concerned.

"The chemicals, the asbestos, things that are going to be airborne. Is that going to be harmful?" Nielson said she feels raspy from breathing the air in South Lake.

"I'm just looking forward to recover as much as possible. I have nothing but sympathy for everybody from the top to the bottom, from Squirrel Valley and where it started in Isabella," Resident William Lugenbeal said.

Lugenbeal said the transition back home was difficult, saying he had to remind himself what he would see when he looked outside.

For now, these two neighbors will have to keep reminding themselves what lies beyond their front door.