More Santa Cruz homeowners moving to rural areas during housing crisis

Increased fire risks for rural homes

More people flocking to WUI areas in...

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. - More homeowners are being exposed to the risks of fires as they move out of cities and into more rural areas.

It’s a trend that is continuing in Santa Cruz as housing continues to get more expensive.

“A million dollar house used to be rare in town, I think that’s more the norm. I think based on housing cost we have had a lot of the population moving towards the more rural areas,” said Building Plans Examiner Jim Heaney with the City of Santa Cruz.

“The mountain locations, they’re more affordable. You know we have mountain communities that originated as summer cabins that have evolved over the years into year round housing,” said realtor Ronnie Truvek.

However, with more people moving into the mountains in search of affordable housing, they’re also moving into places at high risk for wildfires. These areas are called the ‘WUI”, short for wildland urban interface.

"The whole county of Santa Cruz, peppered in and around the mountains have wildland urban interface threats, all over the county. You know we have them in North Coast, in Bonny Doon, we have them in the San Lorenzo Valley, and we have them in Aptos, and Corralitos,” said Cal Fire Deputy Chief Jake Hess.

Deputy Chief Hess said the number one challenge for crews is access because a lot of the properties are tucked away in the canyons. That means special codes and permits in order to build. Jim Heaney with the Santa Cruz planning department says they work to keep buildings safe.

"We've had experiences with wildfires here in the county, particularly we had the summit fire a couple years back. There was a building there that I inspected that had been built since these increases in fire resistance had occurred, and it survived while the building right next to it literally burned to ash.”

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