The residents of Chico and Paradise are struggling to rebuild their homes and resume their lives three months after the deadliest and most destructive fire in California history ravaged their communities.
The Camp Fire killed 85 people, destroyed 14,000 homes and displaced more than 50,000 families last November, according to Cal Fire. In response, the North Valley Community Foundation is assisting fire victims by placing them in better living situations through a relief and recovery fund.
“Between 25 to 90 percent of the homes are gone and of the other 10 and 15 percent, a lot of them are uninhabitable because of smoke damage,” said David Little, North Valley Community Foundations Director of Communications. “There’s no way that donations alone can help rebuild Paradise, but it certainly is a great start.”
The foundation operated in Chico for decades and in the past few years they have started to take a role in building funds for emergency response and disaster recovery, and raised more than $2.5 million to date, according to Little.
It would take one to two years to fully rebuild the town and 10 months to two years just to clear the debris, according to Paradise Mayor Jody Jones.
“It is a monumental task just to acquire the necessities to live your life, even when you find housing,” Jones said.
Sarah Gray lived in Chico for 21 years and was in San Francisco when the fire occurred. She returned two weeks later and was overwhelmed by the destruction.
“It made me start to tear up because it was way worse than I thought it could be,” Gray said. “It was weird because you drive down the street and one building would be fine, but then across the street buildings would be burned to the ground. There [were] melted cars still on the road.”
It’s been a few months since the fire and it seems as though people have moved on. Nationally, the fire is old news, but for locals, the fire is something that they will never forget.
“So many people are overlooking what happened and not caring as much as they did during the fires,” Gray said.
Tanner Little, who has lived in Chico for the last 20 years, said the community is painfully reminded of the fire’s devastation every day.
“It’s still so fresh in everyone’s minds,” Little said. “Everywhere you go, every person you talk to is talking about the fire and how it’s affected them.”
According to some of the 50,000 people displaced by the fire, relief isn’t coming fast enough.
“There are no more emergency shelters still open. There’s all kinds of substandard living situations,” Little said.
Allstate Insurance, State Farm and USAA filed lawsuits against PG&E on behalf of fire victims who hold the company responsible for the incident.
Last week, PG&E released its 2019 Wildfire Safety Plan to address the threat of any future fires that would affect its service areas.
The lawsuits attributed PG&E’s negligence as one of the causes of the Camp Fire. However, the cause of the fire is still under investigation, according to PG&E spokesperson Jody Fox.