As California begins cleaning up from this month's deadly wildfires, concerns are rising that the rebuilding could take years and will be hampered by shortages of contractors and labor.
The governor has ordered the suspension of tough zoning, planning and other requirements to help the fire ravaged communities in Northern California bounce back faster. California, which is known for having some of the nation's strictest environmental and building regulations, also is encouraging local agencies to streamline paperwork to make the rebuilding go smoother.
Regardless, some contractors in the affected region say a shortage of skilled labor that existed before the disaster could worsen, and they worry construction material costs will jump and shortages may create additional hurdles. Some firms are swamped with requests by homeowners, including people seeking original plans for their homes and asking for help rebuilding.
"Our phone is ringing off the hook," said longtime contractor David Leff, owner of Leff Construction Design/Build in Sebastopol, a Sonoma County town about 50 miles north of San Francisco. "We're getting calls from people who we built homes for as long as 30 years ago."
Leff added, "There are more burned homes than there are contractors in the county. Some builders are going to be gearing up as much as possible. The problem is we were all so busy before the fire, and there was a fairly significant labor shortage before the wildfires, that it's going to be even more difficult now."