Former ICC Leader to Head Wildfire Recovery
Former CEO of the International Code Council and former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency James Lee Witt is taking the lead in the rebuilding effort in California following the fires that ravaged wine country in October.
On Oct. 25, Witt was appointed executive director of Rebuild North Bay, a nonprofit launched days after the fires began on Oct. 8, which will coordinate wildfire recovery in Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino, Lake and Solano counties in California.
Witt led the ICC from 2003-06 and led FEMA under former President Bill Clinton. During that tenure he was responsible for the recovery process for nearly 350 disasters.
Witt, who spoke at Sonoma State University, said that his plan was to get every federal, state and local dollar he could to “build back better and safer, and build back with more resiliency than ever before.”
In total, 300 square miles of wildland and neighborhoods is said to have been ravaged by fire. At least 3,500 buildings were destroyed.
Seen from above: California fires reduced entire communities to ash https://t.co/1TL3cH1x1U— The New York Times (@nytimes) October 13, 2017
The San Francisco Chronicle reported that, according to residents and community leaders, it’s the residential building that’s going to be the hardest, as companies fear people will give up on wanting to live in that area, and will not rebuild.
“We have to do whatever we can to help people stay here, not leave,” said Willie Tamayo, vice president of La Tortilla Factory in Santa Rosa, who lost his home. “Every time we hire someone, that person rents locally, buys locally, goes to the doctor locally, does everything here. It’s good for the whole community.”
Some have already suggested building more apartment complexes to try to accommodate for the already-crunched housing situation in the region, but pushback is expected to come with that as well.