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Fire-resistant homes are being built to withstand flames after so many people have lost their homes wildfire

In 2018, California experienced its deadliest and most destructive wildfire. The Camp Fire in the town of Paradise killed 85 people and burned nearly 20,000 homes and businesses.

But if you drive by Paradise today, you’d see signs of a revival. Mike Petersen, manager of the Ace Hardware Store that somehow weathered the inferno, lost his home, like most people there.

Now, whenever he looks out at his neighborhood, he is filled with hope.

“A year ago, these three homes weren’t there,” he told CBS News correspondent Ben Tracy. “A lot of people had their doubts about how many people would rebuild. It’s nice to see the progress for sure.”

Petersen isn’t just rebuilding an ordinary home—he’s rebuilding one that he hopes will withstand future fires. He and his wife are set to move into a two-bedroom house that resembles a modern barn. They appreciate the architecture, but its main draw is that it’s designed not to burn.

“Do you feel like you’re gonna worry less about your home?” Tracy asked.

“Yes. And my insurance company loves it,” Petersen responded.

Design Horizons is building the “Q Cabin,” short for “quonset hut.” It’s named after Quonset Point, a naval facility in Rhode Island where the corrugated metal-roofed buildings were first constructed during World War II.

“It’s non-combustible,” said the company’s owner, Vern Sneed. “It’s a product that you can’t really light on fire.”

Sneed says a Q Cabin costs about the same as a house built with traditional 2x4s.

“We would have a non-combustible siding out here,” he explained. “Then, we’ve got our non-combustible sheathing. Then, we’ve got our non-combustible structure. So, you would have to get through all of these non-combustible layers before you got to the inside.”

According to scientists, most homes burn in wildfires because embers get in-between roof shingles or window frames. The Q Cabin doesn’t have those entry points.

“I understand why you won’t call this ‘fireproof,’ because you could never guarantee that. But this is about as close as you’re gonna get?” Tracy asked.

“This is about as close as you can get,” Sneed affirmed.

Also, part of the problem is the town’s proximity to nature. Communities like Paradise are known as the Wildland Urban Interface, where the outdoors collides with a person’s front door. Almost 50 million homes are in those areas prone to wildfires.

“I think noncombustible housing is the future,” Sneed said when asked if this is the future of home-building, especially now that climate change is accelerating and natural disasters are happening more often.

The Camp Fire also did a lot to change people’s perspectives.

“I think people just let go of their need to control, because we all learned that there is no such thing,” said Gwen Nordgren, president of Paradise Lutheran Church.

The church is also rebuilding, constructing a four-plex Q Cabin that will replace the parsonage building that once housed their pastor and was destroyed in the blaze.

“Given what you’ve gone through, what is it like for people to see something being built back there?” Tracy asked.

“Well, it isn’t just something; it’s something like this,” Nordgren answered. “We’re so excited about it because it’s all gonna be new and beautiful and fire-resistant, which is on most people’s minds.”

The cabin will be rented to four families to generate income for the church, which lost almost half of its members after the wildfire. But now, people are coming back, making Paradise the fastest-growing city in the state of California.

“Nobody who was here gave up. This is Paradise, brother. Nobody gives up. There’s a spirit in this town that was here before the fire, and that’s here now, and it never went away,” Nordgren said.

Click on the video below to learn more about these fire-resistant homes.

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