'I'm still not over it': 3 years later, Tubbs Fire survivors seek justice after contractors allegedly fail to rebuild homes

Wayne Freedman Image
ByWayne Freedman KGO logo
Friday, October 9, 2020
3 years later, Tubbs Fire survivors seek justice in alleged home rebuild fraud
It's been three years since thousands of homes burned in the Tubbs Fire in Sonoma County - and survivors are still looking for justice after Central Valley contractors allegedly promised to rebuild 39 homes, but failed to deliver on that promise.

SANTA ROSA, Calif. (KGO) -- It has been three long years since Sonoma County's Tubbs Fire nightmare.

It feels like yesterday to those who survived.

For a crowd gathered with signs outside the Sonoma County courthouse Friday morning, it feels more like an eternity.

"I'm still not over it. PTSD for three years, now," said Ellen Lencher.

She and others in the crowd lost homes in the fire and money, they say, to Sal and Pam Chiaramonte.

RELATED: Santa Rosa contractor Chiaramonte Construction responds to complaints about rebuilds of homes destroyed in Tubbs Fire

The contractors from Tulare County promised to rebuild 39 houses at Central Valley prices. They did not deliver on most of them.

"And even after the time the realized they would not be able to do what they promised, they continued to take money from people," said attorney Richard Freeman, who represents many of the victims in a civil suit.

Friday's scheduled court appearance provided the first time that many of the Chiaramonte's customers had seen the couple since signing their papers.

The contractors answered no questions.

"No we are not allowed to say anything," said Sal Chiaramonte, though he and his wife did hear an earful.

VIDEO: 'Two years stronger together:' Tubbs Fire survivors reflect on firestorm anniversary

It's a date North Bay neighbors will never forget. Two years ago this week, a devastating wildfire tore through much of Sonoma County, destroying thousands of homes.

"Scumbag. You're not even man enough to look at us," shouted one man in the crowd.

"We're not going away," added another.

Elsewhere, the Santa Rosa Fire Department rang a ceremonial bell 24 times in honor of 24 lives lost that night.

More than 5,000 homes burned. Almost a quarter of them were in Coffey Park, where the Chiaramontes set up shop, as Pam told us in the spring in 2019.

RELATED: Tubbs Fire victims say contractor is not making good on their rebuilds

"We're not some fly-by-night company. We did not go up there to take these people," said Pam Chiaramonte in an exclusive interview with us in the spring of 2019.

Still, Coffey Park resident Carol McHale says she lost $90,000 to them.

She finally found another contractor and moved into the rebuild just this year.

"It will be behind me when I see the Chiaramontes in prison," McHale said after watching court proceedings remotely.

RELATED: Tubbs Fire in Sonoma County was caused by homeowner equipment, not PG&E, investigators say

The Chiaramontes delayed entering a plea until November, which extends the wait for or their accusers, making it three years and counting now.

"It bothers me when people say things happen for a reason," McHale told ABC7. "Don't say that near me."