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California Wildfire Victims Replace Ruined Homes With Quonsets

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The 2018 wildfire season was the deadliest and most destructive wildfire season in California, with nearly two million acres destroyed. Homeowners across the state are still working to rebuild their homes.

Vern Sneed of Design Horizons has collaborated with SteelMaster over the years to create “Q Cabin Kits,” economical, non-combustible Quonset hut cabins that are designed to survive a wildfire better than any stick built home.

“California already requires that your entire exterior be non-combustible. All of these things happen naturally with the Quonset hut,” Vern said.

The Q Cabin Kits are completely fire resistant and can be assembled quickly. Design Horizons uses 2 x 6 steel studs and track, 2 x 12 steel floor joists and 18 gauge SteelMaster arches. Beams are added perpendicular to the arches to give the buildings extra strength.

Vern says he ultimately chose SteelMaster to supply the arches for his kits because of our team’s experience in architectural work.

“I definitely handle everything in an architectural fashion,” Vern said. “What I saw from SteelMaster is that ‘Oh, they’ll understand me as a designer.’ That’s why I’ve stuck with SteelMaster.”

Vern had the idea to use the Quonset hut cabins as replacement homes for wildfire victims for two years, but he didn’t want to seem like he was trying to capitalize on the tragedy.

However, as the wildfires grew and the damage worsened, he felt like he had to do something to help.

“After the fires started getting so bad and whole towns were getting decimated, I felt like I really had to say something and tout the fact that we’re non-combustible,” he said.

Vern picked up two customers shortly after he advertised the replacement home idea on Facebook.

Design Horizons was awarded a building permit in Sonoma County in May for a custom Mountaineer model. The model happens to be very close in size to his customer’s previous home that was destroyed in the fire.

Vern was able to mimic the home’s old floor plan, allowing the customer to arrange the layout like their previous home.

“Everything would be like when you walked into it, you would walk in as you would to the old house,” Vern said.

While many are drawn to Quonset hut cabins for their unique aesthetic, Vern hopes that more people will be drawn to them because of their disaster resistance.

“If you’re going to build anywhere in California, you need to build a non-combustible home. It’s more than just a replacement,” Vern said. “Anybody that builds a new home here, they’ve got to consider that now.”