California’s deadliest and most destructive wildfire, the Camp Fire, sped through the Sierra Nevada foothills in November of 2018, leaving a path of fiery destruction in its wake. With 153,336 acres burned, 18,804 structures destroyed, and 85 lives lost from start to finish, the world could only watch as the deadly fires ravaged Northern California. To the residents of Paradise, California, though, that loss cannot be quantified. They lost not only homes, stores, schools, and jobs; they lost their entire town. What was once considered one of Northern California’s most beautiful towns surrounded by wildlife and nature, was burned away in a matter of days.
Just about a year and a half has passed since this tragedy occurred, and while Butte County has rallied around the Paradise community, there are still countless reminders of what has been lost. While the Camp Fire has left a deep scar on Paradise that can still be seen in its charred trees and burnt out buildings, residents are working hard to rebuild. Almost all the debris from the fire has been cleared from Paradise, which at one time roughly 26,000 people called home. The combined amount of what has been removed so far is about equivalent to a total of four Golden Gate Bridges.
While many had to move away from Paradise immediately after the fires, about 4,000 residents have come back just over a year and a half from when the fires first began. Many of these 4,000 people now live in recreational vehicles like trailers and RV’s, but the spirit of Paradise is slowly coming back. The fire spared around 1,400 homes, and so far, the city has permitted that some new homes that are fit for occupancy. Some businesses on the main street through Paradise, Skyway Road, have even reopened their doors. Large signs loudly proclaim that life still exists in the small but proud Northern California mountain town, and people are starting to trickle back to Paradise little by little.
There are still issues to face, such as potable water concerns for certain businesses and residences. There are also obvious difficulties associated with rebuilding a town from the ground up, but for those who chose to remain or plan to come back, the challenge isn’t insurmountable. While it may not reach its previous 26,000-person population anytime soon, Paradise is slowly coming back, stronger and more resilient than ever. Time heals all wounds, and in just a year and a half since the Camp Fires, Paradise has shown just how strong the soul of the town truly is. While the old Paradise may be lost, a new Paradise is slowly on its way.
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