A year after a Woolsey Fire tore through their community, dozens of residents remain in limbo, unable to return home to the Seminole Springs Mobile Home Park in the Santa Monica Mountains south of Agoura Hills.
The destructive blaze consumed more than half of the residences in the community, which is now filled with row after row of empty lots. Even the homes that didn't burn remain unoccupied because the fire destroyed all the park's infrastructure.
“There are 110 homes that were lost – and 215 homes were here,” resident Michelle O’Wings told KTLA. “All of those people are just displaced.”
The community off Mulholland Highway is awaiting repairs to its gas and power lines, sewer system and storm drains. Estimates place the restoration costs as high as $10 million.
The park, which is owned by residents, doesn’t have that money, said resident Richard Lohmann.
Lohmann bought a new prefabricated home after his was destroyed in the blaze and had it delivered to the lot. It’s now sitting there empty.
“We want to replace everything new before we put the homes back in, but we haven’t been able to raise the money to do so,” Lohmann said. “So now we’re working on a plan B, maybe, where we move the homes back in and fix the existing infrastructure.”
The community doesn’t have a lot of options, O’Wings said.
“If I had the money, I would gladly pay it,” she said. “I bought a lotto ticket today, just hoping. I would give it all to everybody here just so they could rebuild, come home.”
Meanwhile, the displaced residents are struggling to pay for temporary housing. Many have been using insurance money to pay rent elsewhere — but after a year, those funds are running out.
The rent Lohmann now pays for an apartment is three times what it cost him to live in Seminole Springs — and there’s no light at the end of the tunnel.
“It’s been very difficult,” he said. “This was entry-level housing, and we weren’t well-funded to start out with. L.A. County helped us buy this park in 1986.”
The Woolsey Fire is among the most destructive wildfires in California history.
It broke out in the Santa Susana Mountains on Nov. 8, 2018, two minutes after Southern California Edison reported problems with a transmission grid in the area. It jumped the 101 Freeway and spread south toward Seminole Springs.
In the two weeks it took to contain the flames, the blaze spread to more than 150 square miles, destroyed more than 400 homes and claimed three lives.
Dozens of lawsuits are working through the court system, with people who lost their homes and L.A. County filing claims against SoCal Edison.