By Emily Turner

SANTA ROSA (KPIX 5) – Heavy rains have brought erosion concerns to the thousands of empty lots burned out by the wine country wildfires.

Many people who lost their homes in the Tubbs fire have put their properties up for sale. But with all the recent rain, there is concern that those properties could pose a serious risk.

Santa Rosa’s Fountaingrove neighborhood is particularly susceptible to erosion because nobody is really paying attention to them.

Even in bad weather, the views are good. But there’s hardly anyone there to enjoy them.

Diana Gorsiski with the North Bay Association of Realtors said, “It’s never been seen like this.”

But this is the sign of post-wildfire times.

Since November 1, 2017, 116 home lots have sold. And 128 more are currently on the market, making the total put up for sale since the blaze about 244.

Those numbers are unheard of in the market, real estate experts say.

“We were never even thinking about selling lots. If you were selling lots, you were selling maybe a five or a ten acre parcel,” Gorsiski said.

But now the market is flooded with them and they present a unique problem for the city of Santa Rosa.

More than 83 percent of the lots have been cleared and behind them the Army Corp has put into place erosion measures.

But it’s up to the owner to make sure they maintain them.

Paul Lowenthal with Santa Rosa Fire Department’s debris removal division said, “So regardless of whether or not somebody chooses to rebuild right now, or they choose to put the property on the market, they still have to maintain the measures on the property to ensure that the property is going to be stabilized and not lead to a bigger issue.”

Bigger issues include erosion, watershed contamination or even mudslides.

“We’ve seen what happened in Southern California, we’ve been very fortunate that we haven’t had the volume  of rain up here. But regardless, we still want to be prepared, we still want these measures and need these measures to remain in place so that we don’t have issues,” Lowenthal said.

And there are several things the Santa Rosa Fire Department said you can do to stabilize the land.

One of them is hydroseeding, which holds the hillside in place with new root structures. The flip side of hydroseeding is that it can lead to a fire risk in the summer when the grass dries out, which is the last thing the Fountaingrove community needs. Anyone who does hydroseed should be sure to keep their lawn mowed.

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