In the early morning of August 16, 2020, after a thunderstorm that produced close to 11,000 bolts of lightning, the CZU Lightning Complex Fires began a path of destruction that would take over five weeks to contain and another three months to extinguish, with smoldering redwoods being monitored well into 2021. Fires that started in the aftermath of the storm were initially tracked separately, however, a change in wind conditions allowed them to merge and expand dramatically, eventually growing to burn over 86,000 acres in Santa Cruz and San Mateo Counties.
Among the nearly 1,500 buildings destroyed, 928 were homes, many in the Santa Cruz County communities of Ben Lomond, Boulder Creek, Bonny Doon, Swanton, and along Empire Grade Road. The arduous recovery and rebuilding process for many homeowners is ongoing, and many families who lost their homes in the fire decided instead to relocate.
As communities are reconstructed one home at a time, relationships forged before, during, and after the devastating fires continue to play a meaningful role in the rebuilding of homes and lives. Determined families rebuilt more than their homes. They restored community and discovered friends and support along the way.
The Moberg-Doskey Family
The Boulder Creek home of Ken Moberg and Carol Doskey, and sons Jonathan and Thomas, was destroyed in the CZU Lightning Complex Fires. Like many families in the community, they evacuated safely, but lost their home and belongings. Ken says, “We had prepared for emergencies in advance and had a well thought out plan, but in an emergency, it can all go out the window.”
Unlike many homeowners in their community, they decided to rebuild and sought the assistance of Santa Cruz County Bank for a construction loan. Through their close friend, contractor Eric Lamascus, CEO of Elite Construction, they drew up plans for the rebuild. The new structure retains the home’s existing footprint and replaces the workshop with a garage. The building materials were selected with fire safety in mind – steel framing, trusses, roofing, and ROK-ON siding, a fiberglass-reinforced ceramic cement board. The project broke ground in March 2022 and was the first home to be rebuilt in their neighborhood. The family moved into their new home in spring 2023.
Find a local bank! Working with Santa Cruz County Bank was so smooth.
— Ken Moberg
Santa Cruz County Bank provided the construction loan for the rebuild, and Doug Fischer, Director of Business Banking, worked closely with Ken and Carol. Ken’s advice, “Find a local bank! Working with Santa Cruz County Bank was so smooth. Doug’s expert knowledge guided us through each step of the process. He was helpful and responsive – working with a knowledgeable, local professional was refreshing and key to bringing this project to completion.”
The Mugnier Family
Max and Ola Mugnier bought their Bonny Doon home in 2018. In August 2020, Ola, a teacher at Bonny Doon Elementary, was preparing for distance learning due to COVID-19 when the CZU Lightning Complex Fires broke out. Max, Ola, and their three children evacuated safely, but their home was destroyed. The displaced family immediately looked ahead to rebuilding.
The Mugnier’s son had attended school with the son of Timerie Gordon and Christian Nielsen of Nielsen Studios. Timerie reached out to see if they needed help. “That started everything rolling,” notes Ola. “Timerie and Christian created the roadmap to rebuilding.” They broke ground for construction in July 2021 and moved into their all-electric home in June 2022. The new structure incorporates many fire safety features including fire resistant windows, a composite deck, a stucco exterior, and a pool. The landscaping design includes fewer trees in close proximity to the home. The lone, charred redwood that remains near the front of the house, covered in new green shoots, is a visible sign of renewal.
As an owner/builder, getting a construction loan from Santa Cruz County Bank was seamless. Doug walked us through the process and all the steps. He gave us encouragement and support throughout.
— Max Mugnier
The Mugnier residence is one of the first of a dozen rebuilds since the devastating fire. In addition to the architecture, design, and interiors, Nielsen Studios went above and beyond by bringing in community partners to help the family undertake a successful move into their new home. Ola adds, “Timerie and Christian are the reason we’re here today.” State Farm Insurance agent Margarita Nicol and Nielsen Studios’ committed crew — Senior Construction Manager Shawn Williams, Superintendent Daniel Alexander, and Project Coordinator Michelle Salgado — played crucial roles in the process.
Santa Cruz County Bank provided the construction loan for the home rebuild. Doug Fischer, Director of Business Banking, guided the Mugniers through the process. Max emphasizes, “As an owner/builder, getting a construction loan from Santa Cruz County Bank was seamless. Doug walked us through the process and all the steps. He gave us encouragement and support throughout.”
As communities continue to rebuild, the Construction Lending team at Santa Cruz County Bank remains dedicated to supporting homeowners and business owners in their reconstruction journey. Doug Fischer and Dara Harris, Senior Relationship Manager, provide guidance, experience, and crucial financing to those deeply affected by the CZU Lightning Complex Fires.
The determination and fortitude of these families is indicative of the many people affected by the unprecedented fires. The impact on our communities cannot be overstated. The commitment of families, homeowners, businesses, and neighborhoods to rebuilding and reimagining their communities is a testament to their strength, and an inspiration to all of us moving forward.
Santa Cruz County Bank – Construction Lending
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Doug Fischer, SVP Director of Business Banking
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Dara Harris, VP Senior Relationship Manager
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