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Larkfield home begins to rise 5 months after wildfire leveled neighborhood

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The lowlands of Larkfield-Wikiup remain scarred by barren lots on streets where homes used to stand and filled with scores of blackened trees five months after last year’s wildfires, but Jim Dickey’s lot is quickly showing strong signs of rebirth.

A small team of workers was busy Friday constructing forms for the foundation of Dickey’s new house in Larkfield Estates, signaling the slow but steady rebuilding effort progressing in the unincorporated community north of Santa Rosa. Dickey, who received his building permit from Sonoma County in mid-February, said he hopes to have the foundation’s concrete poured this week, and his new Dorchester Drive home built by the end of the year.

“I’m excited that we’re moving forward and that there’s progress happening in the neighborhood,” Dickey said.

Dickey’s wife, Megan Basinger, a Santa Rosa city employee, has been instrumental in getting their home’s rebuild up and running, he said. She informed the couple’s decision to move forward with a new craftsman-style home that will be a bit larger than the one they had before, though it will fit within the same footprint, since their two children’s bedrooms will be placed upstairs and they used to have a one-story home.

Dickey and Basinger’s home was among nearly 740 residences destroyed by the Tubbs fire in the greater Larkfield-Wikiup and Mark West Springs area, according to county planning staff.

The county has issued at least nine building permits for Larkfield-Wikiup alone — including Dickey’s — and another 45  permits for the unincorporated areas are in progress.

As a land surveyor for Cinquini & Passarino Inc., Dickey has been heavily involved in the county’s fire recovery.

He said his firm has surveyed nearly 50 fire-ravaged parcels in Larkfield Estates alone, and a total of more than 330 countywide. Dickey has been involved with about half of those, he said.

“It’s rewarding, but it’s hectic as well,” Dickey said. “I now get a few hundred more emails every day than I’m used to. We’re doing what we can to keep everybody moving forward, helping with the rebuild effort in whatever way we can.”

Among the Larkfield Estates residents helped by Dickey are Joel and Tina Chandler, who enlisted his land-surveying skills as they started on their own rebuild. The Chandlers’ lot has made good progress, too: They’ve gotten a building pad laid down and installed temporary power poles, though they’re still working on getting a building permit from the county, according to Tina Chandler.

“We’re motoring right along,” she said. “I’m really hopeful for this spring, because I think less rain, more sunshine — people’s moods will pick back up and everybody will be hopefully just jazzed to move forward.”

The residents who lost homes in Larkfield-Wikiup are now scattered elsewhere, but they’ve forged close connections in the wake of the October disaster.

Supervisor James Gore, their most immediate local elected representative, spearheaded a network of block captains — of which Dickey is a member — who continue to meet regularly with government officials to guide their community’s recovery.

Larkfield residents also have their own rebuilding website, larkfieldstrong.com, and distribute information via social media channels and email.

The community is making important connections at the state level, too: State Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, hosted an informal “meet-n-greet” at Riebli Elementary School Friday evening. Brad Sherwood, a Sonoma County Water Agency spokesman who lost his Larkfield Estates home in the fires, said he invited McGuire to talk about the rebuilding work with the community and give residents an opportunity to catch up with one another.