Despite the terror of the last month and our suffering losses which cannot be undone, we are not defeated. Our resilience is showing despite Paradise and Magalia residents being scattered. Most of us have at least temporarily or partially integrated into Chico and nearby communities in the valley floor, since the Nov. 8 fire that incinerated ninety percent or more of our town and ridge communities, making them virtually uninhabitable.
In some of Magalia and nearby foothill communities, people are returning to unburned homes while others find their belongings in ashes. Most of us are anxious to return to see our home sites, knowing there’s virtually nothing left to salvage. The devastation of our houses, businesses, and belongings does not mean our beloved town is gone. As long as we are alive, we are the people of the foothills. Paradisians will return to rebuild Paradise and make it stronger than it was before. We’re Paradise Strong and Butte Strong. It’s that togetherness that make us strong.
There are so many ways we find strength to carry on and rebuild. We’ve been noticed by the President of the United States and the Governor of California, who visited and provided assistance as well as words of wisdom and sympathy, even some unintended humor (you know, the suggestion by President Trump that we should spend more time raking the forest …).
I’ve witnessed the transformation of the former Sears building to a disaster help center, and found comfort there from talking to fellow residents also seeking help. I talked to members of the Paradise Town staff at their information table. In that one building our family received much appreciated assistance from DMV and Butte County in getting the official documents we needed. FEMA gave us a number, which helped us get assistance from organizations that I didn’t even know about, like the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation who gave comforting words, hugs, and a significant amount of money. So many people from across the whole country, even internationally came and continue to come to help.
But the most important thing we have is the knowledge of the community we had. For me, that’s Paradise. I can see through the personal connections I have to the people of the town that Paradise is imprinted in our minds and that for most of us being in the valley, as much as we appreciate it and also call it home – the valley cannot replace our mountain home. We will rebuild, replant, and encourage some of the trees to grow tall again, perhaps not as many and not too close to our homes.
Resilience means many things. In the future I will work with my neighbors and say something should a wood pile appear five feet from my house. That will not be tolerated. We are only as safe as the weakest link in our neighborhood. Every home must be fire safe and consistently maintain fire safety. Yes, we will rake even more faithfully than before, and make sure the leaves and branches are not sitting on our roof tops or those of our neighbors. We will keep tidy yards and porches. This kind of devastation must never happen again.
For now, we must patiently wait to return to Paradise. As we wait, we prepare. I have shovels, a rake, a sifter, boots, goggles, a respirator and a truck. I’m ready to return and start our clean-up. I have suggestions for the Town Council as well, as you can imagine. We will rebuild together.
Resilience in Action was published in the Paradise Post on Dec. 8, 2018.
Robin Huffman lived in Paradise, California from 1989 until she evacuated from the Camp Fire on Nov. 8, 2018.