Middletown residents meet to figure out how to rebuild

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About 500 Lake County residents met Thursday night to try to figure out how to rebuild their community. (KGO-TV)

Thursday night, a packed town hall meeting took place in Lake County with hundreds of people who lost everything in the Valley Fire.

DONATIONS: How to help victims of the Valley Fire where you live

FEMA set up a center for survivors of the fire where they can replace their driver's license and birth certificate. They can also meet their insurance agent, receive emergency loans or find a rental home. Still, it is all so overwhelming, so residents had to be told how to take that first step.

"It's called Middletown strong, and I'm proud to be right here," Todd Thalhamer, a business owner from CalRecycle, said.

Thalhamer happens to be a Middletown native who promised to remove the piles of toxic ash from more than 1,200 burned out homes by December.

"If your house was built before 1980, the likelihood that you have asbestos is high," Thalhamer told the crowd.

It's a massive first step in the effort to rebuild the Lake County community. About 500 people met at the Middletown football field to figure out how to restart their lives.

VIDEO: Middletown High School football team eager to return to field

"I felt like I've been OK, but yesterday I pulled up to my driveway and I just sat there and cried. I couldn't get out," Hidden Valley resident Janea Rubio said.

Rubio will have to prove her losses to her insurance company, which is not an easy task.

Water wells and potentially hazardous trees will have to be checked before any building can begin. However, not everyone is coming back. Hundreds of jobs were lost after 63 businesses burned to the ground.

"There are going to be people who don't have the energy to rebuild. They'll get their insurance money and decide to go buy a house that's already built," Lake County Supervisor Rob Brown said.

Brown says the reconstruction of their community will bring in more jobs and opportunities and with new power lines and more fiber optic cable, Middletown could be better than before.

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There is a new Lake County hotline for updated information on the fire: 1-888-565-2787 You can also call the number to find support if you need help assessing your damage.

Click here to find out if you qualify for FEMA assistance

If you lost your home in the Valley Fire, FEMA wants you to call them.
  • Online or from any web-enabled mobile device: DisasterAssistance.gov

  • Smartphone: m.fema.gov

  • Phone: 1-800-621-3362 or TTY: 1-800-462-7585

  • Click here for full coverage on the Valley Fire.
    PHOTOS: ABC7 News reporters at the Valley Fire
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    Valley Firebrush firewildfireevacuationnapa countysonoma countyfire deathFEMAdisasternorthern californiadestroyed homestown hall meetingMiddletownCobbKelseyvilleCalistogaCaliforniaSanta Rosa
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