Wells has moved to Virginia, and other Paradisians have scattered across the country, from Hawaii to Alaska and Maine. Situated on a wooded perch in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains in northern California , Paradise was a town of 27, living in rambling homes and trailer parks. On 8 November it was swept by flames that consumed, at one point, approximately football fields of vegetation per minute, killing dozens of seniors, people with disabilities, and those who were simply trapped. More died in the aftermath, from the smoke and the stress.
People are living in the seemingly random structures that escaped the inferno, and businesses such as Dutch Bros Coffee and Attic Treasures Mall have reopened.
The first home rebuild permit was approved in late March, but widespread construction has been prevented because the Federal Emergency Management Agency Fema has mandated that toxic debris must first be cleared, and the water supply in town is contaminated with benzene, a cancer-causing chemical.
It cannot be used even for cooking or brushing teeth. There are hopes that Paradise high students will be able to graduate on their own campus, which survived, this month. Events like Gold Nugget Days are as important for getting Paradise going again as opening its schools, said Rick Silva, editor of the Paradise Post, which has published without pause since the disaster.
He estimated there were only one-third as many attendees as usual. There was a donkey race and a parade featuring bagpipers and ceremonial shotgun firings, though it was far shorter than normal. Climate and fire experts are asking questions with vast implications. In a recent interview with the Associated Press, however, the California governor, Gavin Newsom, had a different message , evoking tradition and continuity.
Six months after the fire, those affected recall how they survived the destruction and what happened to them next:. Nobody was panicking. We made sure everyone was evacuated before we left. I went out into the parking lot with my co-workers and I gave them hugs. I have not been back. My wife Meagann and I really started three days after 8 November calling contractors and getting the ball rolling. After the fire we were living in a trailer for two months until we got a rental. It was pretty emotional, especially since no one was allowed to go back into Paradise for a month.
When they called us and let us know they were gonna be issuing us the first rebuild permit, that was exciting.
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Paradise is where we both grew up and seeing it building back up from ashes is going to be a good thing. Tim Bowers.
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