November 7 - I was at my sisters house in Magalia. We were finalizing our Christmas craft project, decorating little trees with tiny beads and our I Love Chico, CA Ornaments. My sister thought it smelled like rain was coming, I shrugged and said we weren’t expecting any. I drove home, excited to finish our project and have it ready for the Downtown Christmas Preview.
November 8 - I woke up and got ready to go to the office like any regular day. For 8 a.m. the light was weird so I went outside and saw a large cloud. I thought, hmm that’s weird, maybe my sister was right about the rain. I went back in and gathered my things and left my house in West Chico. As I drove down East Avenue, I could see that this was no weather cloud, it was smoke.
I stopped near SaveMart and called my sister and told her that this looked bad. (Note: Website cover image was taken then). She told me that there has been an evacuation order and she was on her way out. She had called my nephew and he was getting out of his place in Paradise as well. None of us had any idea of the magnitude as of yet but it was becoming obvious that this was no ordinary fire.
I went on to the office and then to my network meeting and we were still not really realizing the magnitude.
By 3:00 p.m. my nephew had made it to my house. He had traveled down Skyway on the wrong side of the road, through a hell-scape of fire.
My sister was still missing. We had no cell service for her and we knew we would just have to wait to hear from her when she could call. She finally arrived at my house at about 6:00 p.m. She had to go up and out. Having already identified the escape routes in advance, she knew where to go. She made it over to Hwy 32 and back to Chico over a road suited for all wheel drive vehicles, in her small Honda Civic.
We are so thankful that I live in Chico and they had a place to go. My small 800 sq. ft house has gotten full but it is such a preferred full. We are thankful to have gotten out with our people and our animals. Both homes were completely gone.
Kim in Chico
January 8, 2019
Lost in Nevada
Burned out of our home after PG and E warned us THREE TIMES on Nov. 7th, our wedding anniversary, that they would turn off the power in the high windy conditions. We believed those DEVILS! They LIED! People died! The very next day.
17 days at the Travelodge in Yuba City.
37 days at the Comfort Inn in Marysville.
Then Jerry Brown said “This is the new normal, get used to it” and we said thats enough of California!
So we fled to Reno where we were married a long time ago.
I am 70, my wife is 65.
We are now in our 35th day in a hotel in Reno. Still looking for a decent home to buy like the wonderful home we lost on Malibu Drive.
I loathe PG&E. I despise the California Democrat Legislature.
I hate Butte County and the Paradise Town Council.
So many stooges and idiots causing us to flee to another state.
Sometimes it feels like nobody cares...like when CHICO said NO to 250 modular homes for the burn victims! You asshats!
I just want to go home.
It still feels like we are in hell, so stressed, so full of anxiety, fear, anger, and hopelessness.
I do not feel that much is being done to help the 50,000 people who had to flee for their lives.
Where is all the donated millions going? Why are people kicked out of the Red Cross shelters? Why did 86 people die with NO WARNING?
This is a human tragedy that no one saw coming, no one was prepared for, and most of us are still struggling just to find a place to live.
I hope somebody IMPORTANT reads this and begins reaching out intelligently to help all of us because all I see so far is a lot of STOOOOOPID!
February 5, 2019
Not sure where to begin. I had the perfect life, wonderful neighbors in the beautiful town of Concow, a beautiful home, pets who I adored with all my heart. When the Camp Fire happened this was all taken away. One of my neighbors died, several of my pets died, my dream home is gone. As my home began to burn I was forced to make the choice of either a) fleeing with the pets I could get into my vehicle and leaving with my ill husband, or b) staying and trying to get everyone evacuated but possibly getting all of us killed in the fire in the process. I wonder every day if I made the right choice.
I am now in a new state, in a beautiful town. Everyone here is so nice, and I have a new home as well. I know I should just feel lucky to be alive, but something inside me died that day and cannot be recovered. I miss my pets, my home, and my neighbors and it sickens me that some did not make it. I dream each night of my pets who died and the idea of their suffering terrifies me. I cannot eat or sleep normally now; nothing brings me pleasure anymore. I am bereft. I cannot abide the death of my community.
I have decided to give myself one year, until November 8th, 2019, to see if anything will change. Sometimes I wish that I too had died that day.
February 5, 2019
Escape from Paradise
Thursday, November 8, 2018, started in typical fashion... I got up around 6 a.m., put on some coffee and watched the news, nothing of particular note. My wife Carol made an appearance sometime later. I was scheduled for an 8 a.m. root canal after which I planned to head for Portland. My cousin’s husband had died not too long before. We had been up for the funeral and initial helps, and I was returning to help her sort through more of the tons of stuff he had carted home in typical hoarder fashion: 20 televisions,
30 vacuum cleaners, dozens of chainsaws, auto parts, tires... a huge task.
I went to the kitchen sink to rinse my cup and noticed the strange light outside. I looked out the front bedroom window and saw a red sun shining through a column of smoke. I told my wife, “Go look out the front door.” A minute later she returned and said, “What a pretty sunrise.” I replied, “You didn’t see the smoke out there?” Smoke can be deceiving. Sometimes it looks to be right behind the next ridge, and you find out it’s 20 miles away. I took a shower and headed out the door to my appointment.
At the dentist’s office, the receptionist Wendy commented, “My dad just called and said there is a fire on Sawmill.” Brenda, the dental assistant, then stated, “I’ve got to go pick up my kids from school.” Tim, the dentist, arrived and said, “I’m sorry, but I have to get home.” I called my wife and told her I was going up the Skyway and up Coutelenc Rd. on the edge of the canyon to see if I could figure out just where the fire was and that if she needed to evacuate, to go to the CMA church.
Ten minutes later, I could see the angry smoke boiling up behind Sawmill Peak, and, looking down the canyon, fire was already burning downhill towards the west branch of the north fork of the Feather River which is directly below the Feather River Adventist Hospital. The fire was aimed directly at the center of Paradise.
Paradise lies at an average elevation of approximately 2,000 feet and is situated on a mostly flat-sloping ridge with major canyons on either side. The west branch drains into Lake Oroville, and Butte Creek, which still hosts spring salmon runs, drains into the Sacramento River. Paradise lies in the foothills of the Cascades in the region where the Sierras begin. When I saw where the fire was, my thought was, “This is no drill. This is the real thing.”
On my way back to the house, I noted that traffic was flowing. Pentz Rd. that runs down the east side of town by the hospital was still open, and there was already a spot fire in upper Paradise at the Skyway and Clark Rd., a long way from the fire front. I then thought of Gerrie, our 90-year-old family friend who lives two blocks from us. I joked to Gerrie later that I could picture my mother, who went to heaven at 96 years old, shaking her cane at me and saying, “You get over there and get Gerrie.” When I walked in the door and saw my wife’s steno machine sitting in its normal staging position near the front door, I asked, “Do you have a job today?” which brought a chuckle from her. My wife is a court reporter and was planning to take the tools of her trade with her. We decided she would pick up Gerrie in her car and I would drive our Chevy truck and camper and meet at the designated evacuation zone in the center of town at the Senior Center. My wife and I had talked earlier and decided if we ever needed to “bug out” for any reason, we should take our camper with us as it has all we need in one package. Thankfully, it was fueled and ready to go to Portland.
I had also spent time thinking about important stuff to grab in an emergency. So I quickly loaded three boxes with the contents of the safe: emergency money, insurance policies, tax records, etc. I drove to the end of the street and remembered my cell phone was in my Jeep. So I walked back five doors and grabbed it. I could hear what sounded exactly like thunder to the northeast. Large active fires sometimes form pyrocumulonimbus... thunderstorm clouds.
Bille Rd. is the major east-west street in the center of town, and it was already jammed with cars seemingly going nowhere. My wife had to turn towards the fire and drive around the block to pick up Gerrie and was patient as Gerrie’s 90-year-old legs carried her slowly around the house gathering up the few things she took with her. Then they joined the flood of cars all headed west. A few minutes behind, I also turned towards the fire for one block and then south down Sawmill Rd. A half-mile down, I noted fire already burning on the back of a large lot fronting Sawmill Rd. When I approached Nunneley where I could turn and head west, traffic was at a standstill and someone in an official capacity was trying to direct traffic. We inched along slowly as fire appeared to the right approximately 200 feet away. I saw it begin to devour a house, and I could hear propane tanks exploding in the distance.
My wife called and said, “Honey, we’re trapped. There are flames right here. We’re going back.” I told her to go to the CMA church as it is a designated evacuation zone. She initially tried, but was informed by other motorists that you couldn’t get above Bille Rd. because of the fire. She and Gerrie next took refuge in the Safeway parking lot. But after a few minutes, a PG&E employee told her, “We’re getting out of here. Follow us.” The Safeway was eventually destroyed. I never again want to hear that tone of fear and helplessness in my wife’s voice. After that, we were not able to contact each other because of spotty cell phone service. Thankfully, Carol was able to reach my brother in Prineville, and he could call both of us and get progress reports. He had been a career firefighter with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
Meanwhile, back on Nunneley, traffic was not moving, and I began to think about where the next large opening was in the forested area. I found out later that I was trying to evacuate in the same neighborhood where Katherine was trying to flee with her two small children. She and her deputy sheriff husband attend our church. She called her husband and told him that traffic was not moving, and he was instrumental in getting traffic temporarily halted on Clark Rd. while traffic coming across Nunneley was allowed to advance westward as we were in more immediate danger. After crossing Clark Rd., I was suddenly going 30 mph... for one-half mile.
The main routes of Pearson and Skyway were four lanes all heading out of town. I was proud to note that there seemed to be little panic with most people driving cautiously and taking turns when traffic streams merged and there was traffic control in place at major intersections. I came across one vehicle abandoned in the middle of the Skyway... perhaps out of gas. My wife went down the Skyway, the main link between Paradise and Chico. She and Gerrie held hands and prayed as they drove past flaming vegetation and structures on both sides of the road and while feeling the intense heat inside the car from the approaching flames. As they continued down, they passed a pickup that was on fire.
When I reached Skyway and Neal Rd., I was in the left lane which was diverted down Neal Rd. I had to keep reminding myself it was daytime as it was completely dark and everyone had their lights on. We inched along for maybe a half mile and then had more traffic merging from a side road. I noticed fire to my right approximately 200 feet away. Traffic would move a little and fire was less visible for a few minutes. Then it would flare up anew. It was flanking our escape route.
About this time, traffic came to a standstill, and I began to think I might have to pull over at some point, abandon my camper, and jog down the road as I knew there was an area of reduced vegetation no more than a mile down. I am 70 years old, and it would be a good test of my new knees, the latest having been replaced seven months before. I was a career firefighter for 36 years, but have to admit to a queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach about this time. With traffic not moving, I noticed red lights ahead that were moving slowly up the hill. And after a while, they turned off the main road... no doubt engines trying to access the fire and protect life and property. I had been assessing the fire to my right and had also noticed a glow straight ahead down the hill and initially feared that fire had spotted ahead and was burning near the road we were evacuating on. I continued to watch and finally could tell that the glow was on the edge of the smoke column and I was starting to glimpse daylight. My stomach settled back down.
As traffic was at a standstill, people behind had abandoned their vehicles and were walking. I noticed a man on crutches, but he was making better time than I was! About this time, traffic began to move slowly, and I quickly caught up to the man on crutches and gave him and his brother and dog a ride. Brad had almost been killed 3.5 months before in Paradise when a woman drunk driver ran a red light and hit him on his motorcycle. She was going about 50 mph. We soon outpaced the fire to the right that had been flanking us, and we all began to breathe a sigh of relief. About this time, my brother Keith called and said that Carol and Gerrie had made it to Chico and would wait for me there.
Brad evacuated without his medications and was cramping badly. So we decided to take him to Enloe Hospital in Chico where he had spent so much time and could resupply with meds. When we got to Highway 99, they would not let traffic turn towards Chico, so we had to detour out through the farmlands and drive in stop-and-go traffic to get to the hospital where I dropped off Brad and his brother.
It took my wife 2.5 hours to evacuate and travel less than 20 miles, and it took me 5.5 hours to evacuate and rejoin her. The fire was and is a tragedy of the first order with 86 people dead, 90% of the town destroyed, and people’s lives changed dramatically. The destruction that occurred in 10 to 12 hours is hard to fathom. I had told people before that under the right set of circumstances the whole town could be wiped out, but I had been lucky to live in Paradise for 39 years and felt relatively safe living in the center of town. I also knew how aggressively fires are fought in and around Paradise and had participated in some of those efforts.
On one fire, I parked the engine on an inside corner of Honey Run Rd., the original route up to Paradise, which is only 1.5 lanes wide and infrequently used. I heard a bulldozer operating somewhere up the hill not visible through the brush, trees, and smoke, but decided to relocate my engine to another drainage approximately 1.5 blocks down the road. No sooner had I walked back to my original location than a large boulder plopped into the road right where my engine had been parked a few minutes before.
There were many tragic and harrowing events of November 8, 2018, that would be recounted in the weeks to come. There were also tales of selfless, heroic deeds and the supportive actions of governmental agencies, private industry, businesses, churches, and fellow citizens all coming to our rescue. I feel for the elderly and infirm, for those who lost loved ones including pets, for those who lost homes and jobs, for traumatized school children, and for all of those living on the edge who wound up in shelters... such a human toll. My own cousin Elaine, whose husband had died recently, also lost a house in Paradise, and then had to put down one of her beloved dogs not long after... as she so aptly put it, “The makings of a Country-Western song!” There is also much to be thankful for: The fire occurred during daylight hours; people did not allow panic to overwhelm their judgment; the smoke stayed high, for if it had been right on the deck, hundreds could have perished.
On a personal level, we escaped with our new car, truck and camper, and were able to take others out with us. We have supportive friends and families. Our church survived and is being used as a location to support the recovery effort. Our insurance company, Farmers, was responsive and generous. Before the fire, a longtime friend Deena offered to sell us a 2017 22’ Jayco toy hauler, and we were considering that purchase, which we are now living in. Earlier in 2018, we had decided that we want to relocate to Sisters in 2020 when my wifes retires, after visiting the area for years, and having family roots all over Oregon and Washington. So our focus is on the road ahead. I am so thankful I had 39 years to live in Paradise, a unique and wonderful place that will eventually rise from the ashes.
Grayson and Carol
February 7, 2019
Scattered among the ashes
I learned about the fire from seeing the smoke at 7:30am. I was on my way to get some lab tests done at the draw station behind the post office in Magalia, when I saw the smoke. I just knew this one was way different, something inside me just knew it would be bad. I don’t know why I did the things I did that day, its like something else took over in me and I was calm which is not my normal way. Normally I get very panicked but that day I was not. I drove to the hardware store which had not yet opened and banged on the door and told them to get out and go to Butte Meadows. Then I drove to Rite Aid and said the same thing. Finally I went to the draw station and told them they better leave now and to go towards Butte Meadows. After that I went home and quickly grabbed my elderly sister, wheel chair, husband and some essential items like prescriptions, important docs that were ready to go by the door and my go bag, laptop and pc unit, leaving the wires and printer and monitor behind. It took us about 5 hours to travel to Chico. Over an hour into the long wait in the heading towards Butte Meadows my husband looked back in his rear view mirror and became very concerned. He asked me should we turn around? I paused and prayed then said, no, stay the course. Later we got a call while still stuck in traffic from our son who was trapped in town. He said Ma it's not looking good. I’m not sure how this will turn out so I want you to know I love you and Dad, again something in me took over and said Boy you just pray. When we finally got to Chico we could see the flames trying to peek over the mountain on 32. It was then that my phone rang again and it was my son saying he got out.
I didn’t cry for months. We went from family house to friends house staying a week here and there until we made the decision to leave CA behind us, knowing we would not find a place to rent. We didn’t just lose our home that day we lost our sense of belonging, our community and way of life.
February 7, 2019
The Rogers on Sesame Street
The day started out like any other beautiful day in paradise or so I thought it would be. I woke at 7:45 a.m. my wife was in Sacramento working, it was me my daughter and the animals at the house. I had just been put in a boot from surgery on my foot 2 days prior. Woke up to let my daughter go watch TV and eat cereal and I went to the bathroom.
Just like any other day I got on Facebook and to my surprise I saw that there was a fire posted in Pulga canyon just like all of the others through the summer, I thought nothing of it so I kept scrolling and not even three minutes later another post-FIRE!!! This post, red evacuation ordered for Pentz Road, me living on sesame Street knowing that Olga canyon and Pentz road, I was in the direct middle. I hobbled outside and to my surprise as soon as I opened the door my world was turned upside down when I saw the smoke Ash and debris falling from the sky and pouring into my yard. Unfortunately my neighborhood was hit first and we had no warning. The fire trucks hadn’t even been out yet. As soon as I saw the smoke, I ran inside as best as I could run, dropped my crutches, grab my daughter, my insulin, my dog and my cat and I put them all in a red wagon and I ran for my life as best as I could in a cast. My driveway which was 200 feet long roughly was covered in smoke by the time we were down at the end. We contacted the police officer who was in the process of knocking on my neighbor’s door, who unfortunately did not make it, to let him know that he needed to leave. He really should have listened, if he had, he would still be here. The police officer informed me that he still needed to go door-to-door to let people know that there’s a fire and that I needed to get into any vehicle and get out. Thank God for my neighbors who lived at the corner of Dean road and Sesame Street for if not for them we would not be alive today. Their sixteen-year-old daughter drove my family and I to safety. I thank God everyday that she grew up in that town and knew the back roads. On our departure from our neighborhood everything was on fire it was chaos. When we hit Pentz Road it was utter chaos. Cars were backed into each other, stuck along the road. She finally made it to Wagstaff where we started cutting through neighborhoods. We got stuck at a stop sign where the cemetery is and luckily a man in a giant truck drove up next to us on the side. He yelled, the fire is right there and at that point we both knew in the car that the laws did not matter, we needed to get out of Paradise. I yelled to the driver, being that I was in the backseat, follow that man as he was driving on the side of the road through yards she did so and him and her saved us. We went head-on towards police officers and oncoming traffic. We were driving around accidents, through yards, fences, grass wherever we could go to get away. After what seemed like about 2 hours of driving in a town that usually takes about 20 minutes to leave, we finally got to skyway and Neal Road and were able to get in the long procession of line of cars down the mountain. The things I saw that day will live with me for the rest of my life. All I can say is, I’m glad that my family is safe. The hell that I witnessed is behind us and all we can do is move forward.
February 14, 2019
The Smell of Pines Over A Cup of Coffee
Missing the smell of pines over a cup of coffee. I miss driving on tree lined roads and watching as the sun plays peek a boo through the branches. I miss town folk complaining about Skyway and the roads, traffic and slow drivers. I miss the school yard. I would sit waiting for our baby boy to be walked out to the car and seeing the leaves fall from limbs heavy with the colorful foliage. I miss the winding roads when wet with rain and the dotted porch lights glimmering on the black top. I miss the seclusion in the trees and the warmth they gave me. I miss the smell of wood burning in the fireplace and watching as the fire crackles in its safe space. There are so many things I miss about being home. These are just a few that have popped into my head this evening. I want to go home but it isn’t the same, nor will it be. We are miles away now, trying to build our lives in the same image of what we had. I hope and pray we can emotionally get back to where we were and the feeling of warmth and comfort when we walk into our new front door. They say grief is a process, I’m ready for it to be over.
February 17, 2019
A poem from my 12-year-old daughter.
My house My home My love
Once upon a silver day
anything was a breath away
then come next morn
when sky’s turned red
when all I wished was to rest my head
I was forced to wake
then forced to run
from my home
my house was done
when times were bleak
and all were weak
I held my head like a sturdy peak.
My home is gone
and where it stood strong
is now a bed of ash
and all feels wrong.
My house my town has forbade to stand
it shall now fall into the sand
no love is left in the place I’ve known
my heart as lonely as my home
for what is home if not for love
and what is love if not shared
whose heart is barren has no love
for love is meant to fill a home
and mine is dead.
February 18, 2019
Rushed out of Paradise like everyone else on the 8th. Thru drone pictures and property check, realized that my mobile home survived, although 90% of park destroyed! Went to various govt. agencies for help. SADLY lots of misinformation, but kept at it and achieved what was available. Also had insurance. Received initial help okay, but adjuster threatened to cut my ALE off, since my home survived. Argued time and time
again couldn’t live there since there was no utilities and the park wasn’t cleared of debris. After notice from State Board of House and Community Development and letter from property manager, problem was solved. Still need to go forward month to month.
Points are many. One make sure you received copy of insurance policy. Read what concerns you and what the adjuster is doing. If he isn’t doing it right, let him know. If too hard for you to understand have friend help you or your insurance agent you bought policy from. Continued problems from adjuster? Demand to speak to someone else. Keep all paperwork that helps you, and send copies to adjuster.
Mobile home parks are different than single home residencies. Get any relevant info from park manager or owners. Big issue is whether park will continue to operate in future. Looks like if not, and you can’t live there, home may not be compensated for.
Use your camera or phone to take picture of problems that exist and that haven’t been addressed by insurance. Make sure that these are identifiable problems that can be addressed. Send all pictures to claim adjuster.
Lets hope that all this is confusion and something not more sinister. A lawsuit against insurance company may be possible!
If you lose compensation from insurance, re-apply to FEMA. You are probably eligible now for help, regardless of previous denial.
Don’t lose hope, just keeping working on it to receive what is rightfully yours. In the long run, good idea to join PGE lawsuit to help cover all losses.
February 22, 2019
First day in along time I took a day off of work, and my Husband was in Sacramento working that day. It was just him and I and 1 dog and 5 cats. I was already at 7:30am running around town getting errands done. As I look to the sky noticing a red glow and then sky becoming dark instead of light I knew something was not right (but what was it?). Within an hour or so I was getting warnings on my phone, family was calling, my Husband was calling and worried and trying to get home as fast as he could. I had just enough time to get our 1 dog and 3 cats in the car. I had to leave behind 2 cats hoping they survive (which we never imagined would really happen). I left my home and tried to get up Clark Rd. to get my 78 year old Mother who does not drive. You were not aloud to go up any further so I had to only hold Hope that someone saves my Mom. From there I slowly drove my way down Skyway as I was crying I thought out of my mind and trying to stay calm. As I sit and slowly wait to get down the hill my sister calls to say my Mothers neighbors got my Mom out but they were stuck at the church while the flames surrounded them.
After the most unimaginable event in all our lives, we made it out safe. My mom made it out. We were able to get back in earlier to save one of our cats that had very burned paws, and thanks to Valley Oaks Vet she is healed and well. Never found our last cat (but will not give up hope). Of coarse our Home did not survive, my job was also burned down and my Moms home is gone.
Even though life has given us a curve ball, we are all survivors not victims (those who lost their lives are victims). I am grateful for such a amazing and strong Husband to get us through it all. I am not a materialistic person (I will just miss having my children’s things from when they were young) so I am able to move on and just be Grateful. I will just mostly miss the Beauty that Paradise held and the Wildlife. But as we all know Nature comes back in Mysterious ways.
March 5, 2019
It was surreal
Al’s morning ritual is to get the newspaper at 7:15am, have a cup of coffee and then shower and shave. November 8th didn’t begin that way. He was surprised that we had electricity based on robo-calls, emails, and TV reports. He went outside to get the paper and hurried back in saying he saw flames. Then he started loading the truck with personal items we had already put in the garage. I started grabbing things of importance and simultaneously called 911. The dispatcher calmly said “Those flames are in Pulga, Paradise is in no danger.” I told her that the flames were less than a mile from us and was told I was wrong. Then I called, while running through the house grabbing pictures that I could, several people and not so calmly to get the *&(^ out of Paradise and that it was on fire.
This all happened in a matter of five or ten minutes. Grabbing the pets we could, what was in Al’s truck then making sure that we had both vehicles, we left. The last thing we said to each other was “I love you, and if we get separated we’ll meet at Ali’s,” (our daughter) house.
By that time the fire was already raging on Pentz Road and had reached the mobile home park at Pentz and Wagstaff. The fire fighters were trying to get us out, but had to turn us around because the fire storm was so fierce. Al thought I was behind him when he turned and found a way out. He was out of Paradise in 4 1/2 to 5 hours. We weren’t reunited until 9:00pm or a little later.
It was horrid for our family and our friends all over this country. My dog, Al’s medical records and I ended up at the Optimo parking lot with over a hundred other people. For hours there was no cell services, our family and hundreds of others couldn’t contact us, they didn’t know if we were dead or alive, and we didn’t know if we would make it.
The fire personnel and the police officers stayed with us, kept us calm, were necessarily stern to keep us safe, and kept us alive. Those brave men and women cared. How we would have lived through it without them is a mute question, we wouldn’t have. They never showed fear, even though they must have been thinking of their families too. They were kind, even though some of the citizens were frightened and rude. Everyone of those responders showed the highest level of professionalism and humanity.
Needless to say, both my husband and I made it out. We will be moving to Reno, Nevada in a couple of weeks. There are no forest fires in the desert. After forty years in Paradise, with friends, family, and a wonderful support group it will be missed.
March 6, 2019
Adventure from Paradise to Murphy NC
I’ve arrived at Murphy NC now, staying at an air B and B rental cabin here. It’s the first chapter in a new adventure to have moved across the US at 66, disabled and knowing NO one here where I’ve moved. Now to find a new long term home - fingers crossed !
I did bring my Bichon Frise dog. He’s been a real comfort to me as a survivor who knows no one in my new location. His name is Cotton.
I re-homed a very elderly dog, Gizmo, knowing she couldn’t handle the shelter situations and weather impacts. She’s been fortunate and was adopted through a vet and the SF senior dog rescue. Her new home / people are wonderful and have sent video’s of her playing / thriving in her new home which greatly helped my heart.
Murphy is a little town (much smaller than Paradise) - it’s in the south western corner of the state. It’s beautiful here - quite cold now (well below freezing at night) but the little log cabin I rented is snug and comfortable.
I feel fortunate to have made the move - now struggling with the endless paperwork process/phone calls, etc., all this brought. I could never have gotten this far without the kindness of so many folks who’ve helped me sort through the hows / why’s and given me aide in many ways. I’m grateful to all who’ve been helping us get our lives back on track!
March 7, 2019
I was already on my way to work in Roseville when I heard about a small grass fire near Concow on the radio news. It started out at about 10 acres but grew to about 100 acres by the time I got to work, around 7:30 AM. Then my son called me at work around 8:30 or so and asked if I had heard about the fire. I told him I heard there was a small grass fire burning near Concow. “It’s not small and it’s not just Concow anymore!” He said he couldn’t reach my wife but he was in Paradise so instead of heading down to Chico right away he would stop by the house and help. He lives in Magalia and Skyway was outbound only by this time. I reached my wife just as she was back from walking the dogs. She said it looked bad and she was gathering things and having her dad pack a bag and then they were leaving. I decided by 9:00 that I should head home. I called her from the car as I was leaving and talked to her the whole way up. She was calm, but obviously nervous. I could hear her tell her dad that they don’t have time to go to breakfast first, that Kalico was probably already on fire! Our son arrived at the house and began the task of helping round up dogs and other items, including some special items from the safe. Traffic came to a dead stop at 149 and 99 heading towards Chico. I could see the black smoke rising from the ridge. I was panicking because my wife and son and father-in-law were trying to get out and I was stuck on the highway, helpless. I stayed on the phone with her the whole time. The power went off at the house about 10 minutes before they left. It took her over two hours on Neal from Skyway to get to Hwy 99, normally a 10-15 minute drive. We finally met up at the Armory in Chico where we planned on spending the night in our tent trailer. We left there around 11:30 PM when they started to evacuate southeast Chico. Then four weeks in hotels until we finally landed in a house in Roseville.
The fire took most everything we owned, but more sadly it took our daily lives with our friends and neighbors. It took our town. We never received alerts from the county, no evacuation order, nothing. We received robocalls from PG&E (Pacific Gas & Extortionists) for two days before the fire saying they may be cutting power due to high fire danger. We all know how that worked out. I’m still sad. I’m still heartbroken. I even still tear up from time to time. But mostly I’m angry that this didn’t have to happen... it was preventable. But we are moving on with life, away from the ridge for now. And we’ll see what the future holds for what was once Paradise.
March 7, 2019
Mechanical. That is the way I can explain life post Camp Fire. Since November 8, 2018 I have been going about the business of life. Commuting to work and back. Doing my job as always both at home and at work. Eating. Sleeping. Making decisions. Searching for the minuscule pieces to pick up, to move on. Executing the processes that come with recovery. Yes. Mechanical. Robot like.
I forgot how to feel. Sounds strange, but true. I continue to be strong for my husband, my family, and my friends. I remain a pillar, the epitome of strength, the inspiration for other survivors to draw from when their crumbled lives become too much for them to bear. But numb. Brushing aside the pain, the fear, the trauma, the exhaustion. Simply surviving each day.
But today the tears have come. My eyes leak salty drops that slide down my cheeks. Grief has taken hold. I mourn my little cabin in the woods and the life I had built there. Memories of what now seems eons ago. My California dream turned to ash. The realization that everything is temporary. Our lives are. Temporary.
I remember what it felt like to fall in love with my home. It was nestled in a grove of giant incense cedars and Douglas firs. I loved those trees that dwarfed my house. They were mighty and stood watch over me. I loved to sit in the yard taking in their breathtaking beauty. The air filled with their sweet aroma. Freshly sharpened pencils. Immersed in that rich scent.
My home was cozy. It was filled with countless treasures. A sign hung above one door. “Love Grows Best in Little Houses.” The cross-stitched 57 Chevy I had made for my husband. A lifetime of photographs. Trinkets from so many, tokens of love. A steampunk lamp. Dickens’ Faire costumes. My mother’s cedar chest. Stained glass windows created by my brother. Generations of jewelry – pearls, diamonds, gemstones, gold. Collections – race medals, shot glasses, Christmas ornaments, hearts. My wedding dress. My daughter’s childhood belongings. My husband’s tools. The scale on which my mother weighed me when I was a baby. The mug my father used for coffee, the circular rings at the bottom of the cup from the stir of a spoon. My books. Oh, my books.
On the front of the house was an eight-foot-high Perry’s ice cream cone sign from a sweet shop in Warsaw, New York. It was there, while enjoying a hot fudge sundae, I was presented my engagement ring. Porch rockers that frequently played a part in a personal “Margaritaville.” Musical wind chimes. My secret garden. A windmill spinning in the breeze. The cherry trees I started from pits. The doggy playground I created for my pup. My copper rain chain that looked like a waterfall during storms. The boulders at the end of the driveway.
My walk-in pantry, the envy of my younger sister. Family cookbooks and recipes. My husband’s “command center” in the office. My college diploma. Bazooka bass speakers I destroyed when I turned up the volume of “Devastation Sounds” reggae. The old milk boxes originally used for milk delivery at my childhood home. My guitars. A wooden sign simply stating “The Stearns Home – Established 1992.” Ocean décor – “Hakuna Matata.” A pencil rubbing of my grandparent’s names from Ellis Island. Kukui nut leis. Bongo drums.
My home is gone. Everything but the memories. I couldn’t imagine ever leaving it. It was perfect. A joy-filled place. Warm. Comfortable. Lovely.
Today I allow myself to grieve. A step back from the business of life. A day of reflection. A day where I let the loss flow around me and through me. The reality of a shattered dream. And the reality that life goes on despite it. I will let the tears flow until they run dry. And I will then begin again.
March 10, 201
Camp Fire Survivor - a poem
Camp Fire Survivor
Last summer I made plans to retire,
To enjoy the beauty of my home in Magalia.
Without warning it came, that ravenous fire.
Within three months, unknowing of it’s path and desire,
I left my home with my pets,
On an escape route that took me higher.
Local radio news said Paradise was burning,
When all communication ceased and traffic halted,
My fears became real as it was safety I was yearning.
I made it to Chico, later that day, to a dark smoky sky
With flames of red consuming the ridge.
It wasn’t over yet, that terrible day, so afraid I might die.
My home now gone. Incinerated beyond belief,
Has set me on a new path, to a new place,
to a new beginning much to my relief.
Through it all, my family, friends and strangers,
With love and support are helping me through this tragedy.
My pets, all in a better place, at least made it out of danger.
In a small Georgia town called Dallas, I now reside.
With rolling hills, beautiful trees and a chorus of birds.
My retirement mission now is to ‘enjoy the ride’.
I look to the future, a clear slate, a thin wire,
so much unknown, so much to learn.
Without warning it came, that ravenous fire.
March 28, 2019
Trailerville in the Woods
After a series of changes I bought a little trailer and my friends graciously let me live there for 9 years. Living close to Lime Saddle Marina was great because I worked there off and on. I had moved to Paradise in 1975 so I was in Love with the area.
November 8, 2018 I woke up early missing my dog who died 4 months before the fire. I took a photo of the cloud which was the smoke flume in Pulga. Then I heard the sirens going up Highway 70. I continued to get ready to go pet sit down by Butte Valley. Driving by the CHP in the road I said I have my I.D. I only live by the bridge. He yelled” you won’t be allowed back in”! I zoomed down the road feeling a panic attack but arrived at the corner store on Clark and Pentz Durham. I ran in and told them this is big!
8am. I’m helping my pet owner person pack up the cats and get ready in CASE! When the propane tanks were heard exploding up Clark Road past the airport and the sky had black purple clouds we left. I drove a truck and left my car. I didn’t know until we drove 99 from Oroville to Chico that Paradise was all burning up.
Two weeks later I heard about my area from the landowner/best friend. Just a little trailer clean, comfy and organized. I had all the photographs in a huge suitcase. I was ready to always evacuate since 2008 and the other fires. I really had no idea the fire would reach us. Feeling for all.
March 28, 2019
Is this a nightmare?
I was woken up at 8:30 the morning of November 8th and told to get up because we might be evacuated.
I been through the evacuations 5 times before and always returned back home so I did not think much about it but got up anyway and took my shower real quick.
After taking my shower and get a reverse phone call saying to evacuate immediately so I went out to the front driveway and I see all the red burning embers falling everywhere and the black smoke with the red glow and hearing all the explosions all around me from the exploding propane tanks and then there was this one huge explosions that shook our house and the windows I thought were going to break.
I ran into the house and told my mother, let’s go now and I grabbed my dog and I did not want her to drive her vehicle so I told her I would drive her and I left my car behind.
I drove down Pentz to Durham-Pentz road and that is when we started getting the backed up of cars.
We made it to highway 99 and had told other family members to meet at the Tackle box parking lot.
On our way up 99, which was really congested by now, I seen ambulances everywhere headed up to paradise and couple of Calfire vehicles.
We made it to Tackle box in Chico and waited for other family members but they had to go down to the red cross in Oroville so we headed toward Oroville down Midway. I could not believe how many cars were headed back towards chico.
We finally made it to the red cross and got signed in and to let them know we were safe.
The first night I slept in the back of my escape in the Gold Country parking lot. Then for the next 2 weeks we stayed at different hotels down on Roseville for 2 nights at each hotel, until I was finally able to get a room for a whole month.
At the last hotel, the Hilton, there were lots if people there from Paradise and Magalia and we all told our stories to each other. For the next month we all became our own little community family and I made some new friends.
I don't know how I would have handled it if it were not for all the people I met and was able to talk to about this tragedy.
This all seems to be like being in a 24/7 nightmare and wish I could wake up and our homes were still there and the whole town of paradise.
I am temporary in a home down in Rocklin and was not able to get any extra help from FEMA or Red Cross or any of the other places because of no way to get there. FEMA would not let me register because the address was already registered by the owner, but I am making it day by day.
I pray that we all can get our lives back together and I will stay Butte Strong!!
March 1, 2020
I do not have a unique survival story, just the love that my family has for Paradise and now trying to find and figure out a new chapter for our
growing family. A brief background of what was happening in our life at the time of the fire and our Paradise Roots.
Both my husband and I were born at Enloe Medical Center in Chico and were raised in Butte County. We are both in our mid-thirties. We can’t believe how hard it is to find a house right now, it’s just sad. We bought a house in lower Paradise on the Skyway-close to the Crossroads and Russel about 10 years ago. We loved Paradise for its elevation, mountain air and small town. Our son, our only child was only 6 weeks old at the time of the fire. I was still off work and my husband had his first day of child bonding time. Thought it was just another fire in the Garbo Gap.
My family roots go way back for Paradise. My grandma moved up there is the upper 1960’s and met my step grandpa-never got to meet my real grandpas-both died early from cancer. My grandma passed about 6 years ago, and then my grandpa moved out of state. Just glad they did not have to experience the fire! Just a brief run down. Hopefully I’m a candidate for someone to share their stories.
April 15, 2019
We have relocated to Cibolo, TX - Just outside San Antonio
After many months of planning we have relocated and began a new
chapter in our lives in Cibolo Texas.
Our hearts will always be in
October 17, 2019
Life on the ridge for me started back in 1974 when my parents my sister and I moved up from Sacramento. Entering Paradise Elementary half way thru the 1st grade, I was very nervous since I knew no one here. As I grew up and gained friends, I fell in love with the community. When I was in the 7th grade a fire destroyed the wing of Paradise Intermediate School that my locker was in. That was my first experience with a fire. After High School I joined the Air Force then upon completion of my duties I returned to Butte County and remained here until that fateful day Nov. 8th 2018. I lived in lower Magalia for the past 8 years with my wife and kids. When we had to evacuate I was certain the fire would not reach Magalia. We were on pins and needles waiting to find out if our home had survived.
The day we found out I had a police escort to my property to try to get tools for my business but saw a pile of mangled metal and ash. We were devastated. Driving thru Paradise felt like we were in an apocalyptic nightmare. My heart felt like it had stopped when we saw our beloved little town. Eventually we got thru the disaster help and found a new start to our life in Oregon. I still have nightmares and find myself breaking down emotionally to this day. It has been difficult at times to move forward but our new neighbors have been very comforting to us and understand what we have been thru. I pray that our beloved ridge will rise from the ashes to shine again. I miss all my friends and customers very much, some I still keep in touch with. We all need a collective shoulder to cry on occasionally, it will help us all heal. I loved Paradise and Magalia.
March 1, 2020
Surrounded By Those Who Truly Care
For me and my wife, we were surrounded by those who truly care. After escaping the fire from our Paradise home on Filbert Street we connected with friends that allowed us to stay in their place in Doe Mill subdivision. Doe Mill was evacuated sometime after sunset. When we left we were stopped at Bruce Road to allow two dozen fire engines through 20th street. We made our way through Durham-Dayton to find some obscure almond grove and stay in my sister’s fifth wheel overnight. They had escaped the fire as well. Friday morning dawned calm, cold, and smoggy. We readied ourselves to travel to Contra Costa and stay with our daughter and sons-in-law while we recuperated.
We are forever grateful that the kids were so attentive to our needs to supply clothing, food and shelter when we arrived. A go fund me account was already established and receiving donations. My brother-in-law brought us bags of clothing and shoes from the GAP where he manages. He also treated us to a lunch at a trendy local pub. The lead clerk at Hercules Walmart gave us two gift cards after we asked for a discount. A woman in the parking lot at the Ross store in Pleasant Hill gave us a twenty-dollar bill when she overheard us say we were from the CampFire. All this was very touching. There is so much goodness in people.
The long-distance support was also truly amazing. We talked to Aunts and Uncles and those friends and family we don’t usually make contact with. We are forever grateful for the support and understanding from these folks. Upon returning to Chico just before Thanksgiving our good friends opened the door to their vacant studio flat in Doe Mill and allowed us to stay until we could re-establish ourselves. I often think of them as two angels coming down from (heavenly) Butte Meadows to save us.
We are both back at work. I actually started with FEMA to help applicants into housing, and she with a human resource office. We have our own place now. Our house is gone, and I am learning to practice some resilience. Again, we are truly grateful for all who helped us with this situation.
October 17, 2019
The only way out of Paradise
The day that ruined me and my children’s lives. On the day of November 8th 2018 was the day that changed everything. That morning I woke up at 6 a.m. to get up and get ready for work. After getting ready for work I woke my kids up to get ready for school. As they’re waking up they told me they don’t feel good can we please stay home. So I decided to take the day off work and just relax with my kids. I actually work at their school so it wasn’t a big deal. Thank God I did take the day off because what was going to happen next was going to change our lives for good. I couldn’t imagine wondering where my kids were with all the chaos that happened. To all the people that sent their kids to school that day, I can only imagine how you felt not knowing where your child was while the whole town was burning down.
So anyways back to my story. It’s around 7 a.m. in the morning and my daughter says mom come look outside. So I go to the sliding glass doors of our apartment and see nothing but smoke at that moment the sky started to turn dark. I knew there was a fire in the town but I didn’t think it was that bad. Five minutes later my mom calls from her home in Magalia and says you guys need to get out now. I get off the phone with her and start packing a bag of clothes for me and my kids. I mainly grab them clothes. We didn’t grab anything else we didn’t think the town was going to burn down. Not even 10 minutes after that I started hearing propane tanks blowing up. That’s when I said kids we got to go now.
I got the kids in the car and started to pull out of shelter cove parking lot it took me 20 minutes just to pull out onto the road. There were cars everywhere, police officers, people walking down the road, and firefighters.all you could hear was sirens and loud noise. Every 5 minutes felt like an hour, cars weren’t budging there was just too much traffic in the town. About 30 minutes went by and we only moved like 50 feet. At this point I’m trying to call everyone I know to see if they’re all right and if they’re making it out of here. My mom’s not answering the phone. So I have no idea what’s going on with her are my stepdad. My kids are crying at this point because the am/pm gas station is on fire and we can’t move at all. We don’t know if it’s going to blow up like in the movies. As we keep going very slowly there’s spot fires everywhere and not enough firefighters to even put them out. We finally hit Pearson road to go towards skyway because that’s the only way they let us go. We were in the wrong lane to head towards Oroville. Pearson road was not too bad it was still dark and smokey. But traffic was moving faster. It still took us an hour to get to skyway. We finally thought we were getting ready to head out of Paradise to Chico but we didn’t realize all the skyway was already in flames. All I could think at that moment is we’re going to die and they sent us right into the inferno. Buildings, trees and houses are in flames around us and my kids are bawling their eyes out saying “Mom are we going to make it?” I said I’m not sure you guys I love you so much, we might not make it. I told them at that moment let’s just pray to God. So me and my kids are in this smokey car we can’t see a foot in front of us. There’s just too much smoke all we could see is the flames around us. As we sit there and cry together and tell each other how much we love each other. I’m trying to be strong and make it out.
I got random cars stopping in front of me some people jumping out trying to run. At one point I have a car in front of me and I thought people were in it and we just weren’t moving. Until cars started going around it so I did too. There was no one in the car in the middle of the highway. I’m going as fast as I can go I’m trying not to get in an accident because there’s just too much going on. At that moment there we’re embers going across the street I thought for sure my tires were going to melt. You could feel the heat inside the car but there was nothing we could do but keep driving. We finally made it out of the flames and into Chico. As we got into Chico there were people everywhere. All these people including ourselves had no home and didn’t really know where to go at this point. The plan was before I left paradise was to meet at my brothers in Chico. It took forever to make it out of Paradise and now I had to wonder if my mom and my dad made it to. Sitting there crying thinking they didn’t make it and no one’s answering their phones. I finally got ahold of my mom and she said she was going back to the house because she couldn’t get down the skyway. Plus she said my stepdad was trying to get up to her. He was working in Paradise at the time. Come to find out they wouldn’t even let him go try to get to my mom. They stopped all traffic going up to Magalia.
Probably an hour after being in Chico my step dad finally made it out of there. And all we can think about is if my mom could get out or not. Me and my step dad and my brother were getting really scared mom’s not calling or answering her phone. It took 6 hours before I got a call from my mom saying she might run out of gas and she still on the back way out of Magalia. There is no gas stations around. So my step dad tries to get in there and they won’t let him in. We just keep telling my mom just keep driving until you run out of gas. My step dad’s waiting at this point on the outskirts of Chico, where she will be coming into Chico with a can of gas just hoping she makes it to him. Mom finally made it, thank the Lord. We all hug each other and just start crying together as a family. All we could think about is our homes making it. That night we all just sat by our cars and watch the flames in Paradise burn the town down. I will remember this day for the rest of my life it brings tears to my eyes just writing this today.
Now we all have to decide what to do. There’s so much smoke in Chico at this point I decide to go to my other brother’s house in Sacramento and wait out the fire. We all just hope and pray there’s something left for us to go home to. As I get to Sacramento there’s nothing but smoke down there too. There is no escaping the smoke. I had just the clothes on my back and a few clothes for my kids. Good thing the thrift stores in Sacramento gave up $30 in clothing a piece for me and my kids. I stayed at my brother’s for 2 weeks just watching the news and crying. It took forever before they finally opened up Paradise. But what was the point? There was nothing left, the town was gone, our homes were gone, our lives we’re gone. So now what do we all do. The school still paid me for a few months after the fire, even though I was not working. At least someone cared. And living in motels isn’t cheap. Every hotel in Chico was booked up for months. In one month I moved into 6 different hotels clear down to Roseville. In the past 6 months I have been into at least 15 different hotels with two kids. Until FEMA finally got me a travel trailer to stay in on the lake. But they had rules you had to fill out applications to rent a place and you had to have so many a month. What do they expect from us. We have nothing and no jobs and there’s nowhere to rent because the only rentals available are gone. So at this point I decided it’s time to move away.
So here I find myself in Washington with no family around. And life is still hard. But I’m working on it. I finally found a job, I got a travel trailer I made it work but yes we are still struggling and we might be for a while but will be okay. Me and my kids miss our lives but there’s nothing we can do about it. We miss our family, we miss our friends, we miss our home, and we miss our stuff. I still haven’t went to counseling like my mom said I should but I think I might need it. Because I find myself crying over the littlest things. We our strong, I just keep telling myself at least we’re alive.
March 1, 2020
Not Everything in a Home is “Just Stuff”
~ Shelves packed with books lining the
walls (some that have been rifled
through by three generations of
grubby little kid hands).
~ Love letters carefully saved from
great, great, great grandparents.
~ Yearbooks with notes written by
friends from decades ago.
~ Albums full of baby photos of 7+ kids.
Crayon drawings, paintings, and
lumpy little ceramic projects that
made us cringe as adults.
~ Handmade masks and art and home
wares from living in Japan, Costa
Rica, Mexico, and Micronesia.
~ My mother’s wedding dress framed
on her bedroom wall.
~ A garden lovingly tended to every
weekend by my dad when he
~ A tiny denim jacket fit for a
precocious little girl decorated with
pins and patches from her uncle.
~ A little boy’s AC/DC poster, AC/DC
t-shirt, and electric guitar, and
another boy’s new laptop with the
games he’d learned to code himself.
~ Pictures of my dad from when he
awkwardly modeled suits in Japan.
~ My grandfather’s letters to his mother
from the orphanage where he lived
during the depression.
~ Our baby teeth and hair clippings
from our first haircuts that my mother
kept in little envelopes and carried
with her overseas so many times.
~ Not everything in a home is “just
stuff,” and it will take a while to
process everything that was lost.
My family’s home in Paradise was confirmed to be destroyed. But
everyone is here, and we’re together, and we’re making new memories and gathering new mementos.
December 30, 2019
I was born in Paradise in 1964. My family had been on the ridge since the 1920s. So I guess you could say I was pretty invested in our town and county. Went to school and graduated in 1982 Paradise High.
When the fire started I left immediately as I knew I would be gridlocked. I left via Skyway North to Sterling to say with parents until the next day as I was working with the Butte County Sherrifs Dept. I saw a lot after that working with everyone to secure the disaster. Saw a lot of good people and saw some not so good.
I’m just blessed that my family came out of it ok. Stuff is stuff and can be replaced, but lives cannot. After the main fire settled down, about one month, I bought property in New Plymouth Idaho. It reminds me what
Paradise was 30 or more years ago. I also relocated my parents from Sterling near here. I still have a cabin at Philbrook Lake, but as far as the rest, its all ghosts to me. Sometimes we need to cut our losses and move on.
I will never see Paradise as it once was, but have a whole lot of good memories. It's hard to give up a place you were born in, but have a new life here, and new adventures to be a
March 1, 2020
My Story of the Camp Fire 11/08/2018
That Thursday morning, I had the day off from my work at Paradise Post-Acute (formally known as Paradise Skilled Nursing). I was working there as Housekeeping and Laundry. I had intended of sleeping in and planed on unpacking more of my stuff. I just had moved into my co-worker’s place and was renting their living room. I had previously lost my place of living and
ended up owing lots of money. It was such a perfect situation for myself. $200 a month for a place with utilities, with my job and my current bill at that time I was doing well and be able to pay what I owe, still be able to travel to all the places around in town that I needed to attend too without much of trouble. That had all changed within less than 30 minutes on that particular morning.
I woke up by my roommates (married couple with 2 kids) getting ready to leave for their school and work. About 6:30 am everyone had left. I got up and made some coffee and I always like to have a cigarette with my coffee out on the balcony. At that day I was rolling my cigarette. I’m sitting outside and I noticed the sky being really dark more than usual, also since it was a big apartment complex people outside were running around like never seen before. At that point I thought it was going to be a different day, but I didn’t think it was anything to worry about. My girlfriend Kim who lived like a couple blocks down from me (10-minute walk down the bike path) was texting me. She already had gone to work in Chico. The text was asking me if I have heard about the fire. I went and to my CalFire app on my phone and at that time it showed me a 10-acre fire way over at a place I have never even heard of Pulga. I text her back saying that all I know is about that fire way over there and I didn’t think we had anything to worry about. At that same time, I started to notice something dropping on the leaves of the trees surrounding. I thought it was finally raining. Kim texted me asking me if she should come back because she heard about how Paradise is getting evacuated. I text her back saying that we have nothing to worry about and its starting to rain as well. I went back inside to get on my desktop computer and started to play on a game I had been playing for a while to just get further into my game.
Cristopher my roommate just came back to the apartment from dropping his wife and kids off. I’m sitting on my computer just about getting my game loaded and he is turning on the oven to make some breakfast for himself. He asked me if I have heard about the fire. I asked in return why everyone is talking about this fire. I just had looked it up on the CalFire app and it’s just a small 10-acre fire way over by Concow. He was kind of mystified by that. About 7:30 am he got a text from his wife saying that she is getting evacuated where she is at on Pents Rd. He told me that and he’s leaving to pick her and the kids up. Left the oven on and grabbed his stuff as he had said the hopes to see me later. I was starting to stress than and I wanted to see for myself what’s going on. I got some more coffee and went back out on the balcony to smoke another cigarette and as I did that Kim was texting me that she is on her way back and asked me to check on her son Nathan who was at her apartment. He still was sleeping, and Kim was not able to get a hold of him.
The apartment complex I was staying at was right next to the Paradise High School. The loudspeakers there were loud and clearly saying: “Every student is to report to the cafeteria as soon as possible and other students of the surrounding schools are also to report to the cafeteria!” My thought was that the whole town is being evacuated and by that moment I looked around and noticed that my previous thought about the rain hitting leaves was false and was not rain. It was thick chunks of ash. I looked all over and saw that was all ash! I really was freaking out at that point. So many thoughts were going through my mind. I was worried about my own daughter who was in Magalia and was at her middle school at that point, Kim who was trying to get back to her son and about her son being home alone. I text Kim back saying to just get back here as soon as possible. The school next to me just confirmed the town is getting evacuated. She called me and told me she is trying to get back into town and I was able to tell that she is a very frantic state of mind. It was very difficult for her to get back up the hill to Paradise from Chico. Traffic everywhere was jammed and backed up. She asked me to get over to her apartment to get her son and if she could not make it up to just get the keys for her Ford Taurus than drive with her son to safety out of town.
I went and grabbed my backpack that had just very important paperwork and some other little things in it. Put on my shoes and I thought about grabbing my immigration paperwork I had locked up in my safe and some clothes, but I didn’t because it didn’t seem like there was enough time. Took my cellphone, keys and wallet. Went to turn off my computer and I turned off the oven that my roommate had left on, thinking that be the one thing I should do and went out the door even locked it up. I ran across the yard to get to bike path. I was running towards Kim’s apartment and got to Elliot Rd. as I was trying to get across, I had to stop. Traffic was blocking me and thankfully as the cars were stopping a utility truck of some sort had stopped for me at the cross walk and let me cross but still had to look out for the cars on the other lane to clear to cross. Finally got to Kim’s apartment after running through this gloomy air with ashes pilling up on my backpack and on my hat, I was wearing. I got to her stairway and I saw her son standing on the porch being on the phone. I think he was talking to his dad or his brother, crying and saying he wanted to his mommy and being very frantic himself. He has autism so it’s very intense for him at this point. I went up to him and told him that everything will be ok, and his mother is on her way, should be here any moment now. I was able to get him to calm down and get him to get whatever he needed packed up and ready to go.
It’s very dark and seemingly an apocalypse like setting at that moment. The neighbors are yelling and being frantic to get their cars packed up. They are too having a bad time and their cat got out, so they were trying to get their cat back, witch at that moment I was on the phone with Kim, she told me that she is trying to get the apartment but police are blocking Pearson Rd. and making everyone turn around. She put the phone down and just turned down Pearson Rd. I went to make sure her son was ready, and I texted my boss to see what was going on and he told me I need to come there because they needed help to get all the residents moved out. I told him I can’t because I have to worry about my own family and help them to get out. I also called some other places saying I am not able to come in today due to the fact that the entire town of Paradise is getting evacuated. At that point Kim was able to get to her apartment. She quickly went up and ensured that her son and I were ready to go. We were all in her bedroom as Kim was trying to grab her bag with some important things for her and her son. She had asked me if she should grab some clothes. I had said that she probably should grab whatever she can, her reply was to just go, that everything will still be here tomorrow. I said yea this is all just precautionary evacuations. They will make sure the town won’t get burned down. We all left and got in her car and I had asked her before we head out of here could we go back to my place so I can grab some important documents. Kim had looked at me and said no we are leaving here right now and If I wanted to get back to my place, she could drop me off and she’d be on her way out of here without me. If I wanted to get out of here, I would need to stay with them because she is not going back to my place. I was later on very thankful she had done so. We are now on our way down Skyway.
As we are all trying to leave town we are stop and go on Pearson and could hear all kinds ruckus and loud booms. Everyone is honking and trying to leave out to Skyway. The Sheriff was guiding the traffic at the intersection of Skyway and Pearson. Finally, we got out to Skyway and the southbound lane of Skyway was going very slowly maybe like a foot in 5 second or longer. We get about halfway down and I looked around and saw they opened the northbound lanes for everyone to go southbound down. I kept checking my cellphone to see about any notifications or any emergency warnings. Just plain nothing, also I kept checking the CalFire App, which kept saying the same thing. As I have found out months later the Fire was right about at our tail when we were trying to get down Skyway at that time. It’s still very dark and it looked like it was snowing but it was all ash falling down. I was getting very worried about my daughter who I was not sure of what was going on with her. I called her grandfather who was taking care of her when her mother was working. He had reassured me that my daughter is safe and is with her mother. So, 4 or 5 hours later we get into Chico and stopped at the very first gas station. Kim and I were needing some coffee and something to eat and we were all inside the gas station shop. I told her that I was very unsure about what is going to happen and that we need to stick together because I felt like I was about to lose my own self sanity. There was so much going through my head. I had a very hard time to keep myself together. I wanted to just feel numb and drink, to just forget about everything. I am a recovery alcoholic, and thanks to my girlfriend and now fiancé she was able to help me through of not getting myself lost and able to stay sober.
We were standing in the parking lot wondering what the next move is. Should we stay here and wait it out or should we figure out where we should spend the night? The anxiety of the unknowing was getting intense and people kept coming and leaving trying to figure out the same thing and all being very frantic. Lots of sirens everywhere with the air being smoky and still dark but a little sun coming through. Just was a very strange feeling because it just had been dark as night, so everything was thrown off. It was about 12:30 pm and trying to gather my thoughts and just trying to take this so unreal reality into actuality, this is actually happening! Kim and I looked at everything and looking at each other with this empty feeling of a major disaster accruing that we and thousand of people would never have spend one second to ever think that the whole town plus most of the region would ever burn down so quick. I can remember the thoughts I had to trying to reason this horrible situation. Looking all around this apocalyptic scene and all the commotion going on. Helicopters, airplanes, official government vehicles and this all for the worse fear of all fears settling in, all at the same time. I was hopeful for the fire crew and knowing they are doing the best they can, hearing that there are fire crews coming here from all over the state and other states as well. This fire just was too big and too fast in order to gain control over it. What kind of nightmare it has become? No one knew and no one thought everything that everyone had (except for those who were fortunate enough they didn’t loose their place) would be gone forever. I didn’t care about items I had or cloths, all the material things would be replaced eventually but there were things that I and many people have lost that simply can not and will not ever be replaced. Family pictures and the very sentimental things that could never be priced or even redone in any way.
Kim, her son Nathan and I just went to a park in Chico and tried to just let our hope help us getting through this. Nathan was seemingly doing ok; Kim and I were just trying to stay calm and she contacted her oldest son Chris. He was at this time at Butte collage and also getting evacuated. He had been trying to leave and his normal way on highway 99 was also blocked and had to drive all the way around through Oroville and Gridley to just get into Chico to his apartment at California Park in Chico. We were going to stay with him until we knew more of what we should do. We were waiting for him to get to his apartment, but he had been struggling to get through this very slow-moving traffic. I think he ended up also getting a flat tire on this car. It took him about 5 or 6 hours to just get back and he told us we could go his girlfriend apartment who was pretty much across from his apartment. So, we all went there and just hung out with his girlfriend as she was in progress of setting up an air mattress we could sleep on. It was about 7 pm or so. It was all dark by the night now. He finally gets back and we eventually went to his apartment and were there for like maybe an hour till we somehow got aware of that they are placing an evacuation order at California Park. Kim and I thought was this ever going to end? So, all of us are getting back in our cars and trying to figure out where to go next?!? Everyone around us is trying to flee and running around and more commotion over and over again. Stress building up and more of unknowing.
Luckily, Kim’s friend Annie was able to help us to stay at her apartment. It was in downtown Chico. Kim’s car needed gas and drove to her place hoping to stop by a gas-station. All the once we drove to were either so full and pack by other cars and trucks there was no way to get in or the gas-station was shutdown because they ran out of gas. It was driving us mad and stressing us out so badly, Chris as well (although he was managing all this a lot better than me and Kim) but he was also in need of getting gas for his car and was having the same problem. Finally, we get to some gas-station and one of the attended was guiding everyone at the few pumps they had available. That was amazing and were able to get our gas tank filled and drove to Annie’s apartment. Chris was able to get gas for himself as well and showed up, there at Annie’s as well a little later. It was late and we all were just exhausted and just done with that Thursday. Chris and Nathan were able to sleep on the couch and for me and Kim we got to sleep on a twin bunk bed of Annie’s daughter. It was good enough for us but me and Kim could not get to sleep very well. Eventually Kim fell asleep, but I was not able too even with taking some sleeping aids. My mind was not letting me, and I had just been just lying next to Kim. Everything from that day going through my mind and still trying to rationalize, reasoning and taking it into acceptance yet fearing all the loss and my life. Just as I was trying to rebuild my life again from having almost lost everything… I still had it at least set up to where I could rebuild my life again but would make it a better start. I just had it all set up for just having that moment of clarity and making better choices to make it a better future and to be a good father and to be a good husband. All just wiped out and now back at square one!!!
March 1, 2020
The morning I’ll never forget
A little after 7 am the morning of Nov. 8th, I turn on my Computer go to Facebook see a message from Butte County WX. Says there’s a fire down on Camp Creek Road. I live 3.5 miles above Pulga and Camp Creek Road so I start getting dressed to go look at it. My place is in a hole behind a mountain so I have to go a couple of miles to see anything. Just as I start out the door my phone rings it’s my buddy JT from Paradise he’d just seen it on the news so he’s calling to warn me. I tell him I’m just leaving to look at it and I’ll call him back. Get down the road expecting to see a little smoke but instead, I see this a raging inferno. I’m kinda stunned by what I see, I stop and take this picture. Then Drive down a little to where I can see down Flea Creek Canyon directly above Pulga. Then what I see is even worse, a giant blow torch heading down into Concow. I take a couple of pictures then think everyone in Concow is going to be incinerated. I live in a remote area and there’s no cell service I have Hughesnet internet and phone so I race back home to call friends in Concow. First person I call Peggy Moak answers and she’s already frantic I realize I’m too late, try calling some others but no one else answers. I post on the Concow Yankee Hill Community page on Facebook Evacuate Now.
At that point, I don’t know what to do it looked like the fire was blowing by me so I go back down to see. The fires is slowing creeping my way also. It’s up on Flea Mountain now, it’s not like what was coming into Concow more like a normal fire coming my way. I’m hoping that the roads will hold it.
By now it’s about 8:45 I go back home and call my friend JT back in Paradise. He answers and says “Guess where I am” I just say Where “I’m in a field holding on to my wife’s horses watching my house burn down” I say “Bullshit no fire can go that fast” I was wrong.
For the next two weeks I had fire slowly creeping around me. The next day Cal Fire showed up and set up a fire base 1-1/2 down the road from me. I live on upper Concow Road and the fire was burning up the side of the road. So far the fire stayed on the far side of the road from me but it was getting close. It got with in 500 feet of the corner of my property then the wind blew it back and it continued down the side of the P-line towards the West Branch. But about a mile down the road it jumped the road and got on the mountain behind me that is covered with Tan Oak. It started raging Cal Fire came and woke me at 2 am to warn me. The sky behind me was glowing red Cal Fire said they didn’t have anyone to put on it and I should think about leaving. So I gathered up my 3 Kitties and was going to take them down to Concow and come back with my friend’s big truck and get some of my stuff. I get to Concow and Rim road at 4 am there’s a Sheriff there and he won’t let me into Concow tells me it’s a danger zone I tell him there’s no danger there they fires behind my place and I want to get my pets to safety and come back with a truck. He won’t let me down so I just get back and I’m going to drive down anyway. He stands in front of me with his hand on his gun. So I give up and go back to the Cal Firebase and tell them. The Dozer boss says after the morning briefing he can get an operator and a Dozer and he will come and help me. The Dozer comes and cuts fire line around my place then a big break up above where the fire would come. We spent most of the morning doing this and he tells me as soon as they get more equipment free they will be back.
That night I had 8 Dozers come through my place cut open an old road going out the back. They got up to the fire cut line around it even had hose line and rainbirds going. This all took awhile it was 6 days into the fire now. Then I found out the fire was also burning up the Feather River Canyon and now was raging to the east of me. They were able to put in more fire line and contain that but by now I had fires on 3 sides of me. I was hoping for rain then on the 22nd it poured and put the fire out.
Now my next problem was food and gas I was going to go shopping and get gas on the day of the fire so I was low on supplies and if I left they wouldn’t let me back in again. I got bag lunches from the fire crews and had two friends bring me stuff. One worked for the Forest service and got assigned to the fire he brought me 200 dollars worth of groceries then another friend came in through Butte Meadows over to Philbrook then down to me with 35 gallons of gas. I don’t think anyone had fire around them for 2 weeks like me but was lucky enough to make it unscathed.
March 1, 2020
I WANT TO GO HOME
I left Chico 6 months ago. We couldn’t take living like we were. I am so lost now. I feel totally disconnected from my community (Paradise) I grew up in. I just have been a fog since the incident. Can’t even type the word f*re. I feel like I am so late to the mental recovery process. So lost. So alone.
I didn’t think it was going to be this difficult
• hiring a lawyer because my
• making that damn list for PG&E
• on and on and on and on
As you all know.
I miss you all, I miss the beauty, I miss running down the roads
I miss feeling safe
I miss my dog
March 1, 2020
I got up in the morning of Nov. 8 2018, visiting with my friend in Magalia CA. It was gloomy outside an the sky was red. I realized. There was a fire some where. Later on about 10:00am noticed it was getting closer I started to get worried so I started packing a few things. I had my dog with me wasn’t really sure what to do. I just knew I had to get out everyone around me started panicking I only had dirt bike not knowing how I was going to get my dog out if there were to be a evacuation. All I kept hearing was the fire was getting closer.
Around 5pm that day sheriff came in and said mandatory evacuation not knowing what to do or if my family in my residence at 3943 Hoffman Concow we’re safe or not I could not take my dog on my dirt bike so I had to let her go with a lady that had a truck she could go in. An I took my dirt bike headed out instead away from fire. I went towards fire going through Paradise. I was scared an could not believe what I was up against. everything was on fire, there was no way I was going to make it out I had to park my dirt bike at the Kmart parking lot an take the safe bus to Nazrine church in Oroville CA I then ran in to my family, mom, sister, brother. Finding out that we lost everything at home among all the 5 dogs my mom had since puppy’s, along with my trailer an all of my belonging were gone. Still
worried about my dog in Magalia California with this lady with a truck.
Two weeks later I went back in to Magalia California went to the residence I was visiting. My dog was left behind, chained to a tree alive with little food an water taken care of by nearby residents that stayed behind to fight for their home against the camp fire 2018.
January 25, 2021
Paradise has been home to parts of my family for as long as I can
remember. I only lived there for 3+ years when the Camp fire struck.
I grew up coming to Paradise to visit Grandparents, Aunt’s/Uncles and cousins. Coming to visit was one of my favorite things to do but I had considered myself a city girl and resisted moving to Paradise for a long time.
I thought small town life wasn’t for me. I thought it was too slow, too
boring, nothing to do or see but I was so wrong.
When I finally did move to Paradise it took me a bit to relax.
Everything was so...different. As in...I can hear wildlife at night instead of loud music or fireworks, people don’t just wave to you...they actually want to know how you are doing and have a conversation, there is no rushing...they take their time to do things like browse and make eye contact which leads to conversation! This wasn’t just a town or even just a small town...this was a community. They came together to celebrate, mourn, play and work. They welcome you in with no questions asked.
That Nov. 8 morning was a shock to all of us. Fire evacuations have happened in the past but somehow we all knew this was different. What would normally have been a bright sunny morning was black with smoke and debris.
Turning on the news and seeing a story of a fire 9 miles away and suddenly the phone rings with a reverse 911 telling us to leave. Grab the animals and jump in the car with the clothes on our backs.
The only light we had were the headlights of other vehicles and the coming inferno of flames. Sitting in a traffic jam of your neighbors as we wait in vehicle traffic trying to escape and leave our town. It took 3 hrs, sitting in dark nightmare to go 3 miles to 1 of 2 escape routes. Driving past the airport with fire coming up on the side of Clark rd. vehicle getting hot, breathing warm thick air.
Suddenly blinded by daylight as we leave the black cloud of doom
We lost everything that day. All my relatives lost everything.
Our once beautifully wooded community was reduced to ashes
in 1 day.
January 25, 2021
Two Years since the Camp Fire destroyed the Town of Paradise California
Two years ago, the November 2018 tragedy known as the Camp Fire, which virtually destroyed all of the city of Paradise, was responsible for the death of 85 residents. It destroyed almost 19,000 structures, including 14,000 homes. The fire was the costliest natural disaster in the world that year, with damages estimated to be upwards of $16 billion.
However, while environmental conditions, such as strong winds and low humidity, factored into the severity of the disaster, the event was largely due to negligence by Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), the utility company which provides electricity to northern California.
January 25, 2021
To See Article, click link below:
I am one of the fortunate ones
I am one of the fortunate ones. I had renter’s insurance, my home did not burn, and I got to return to it after 15 months in Chico. I am sure my recovery from the trauma and grief has been helped by being able to
All that being said, I am not the same happy person I was before the fire. I had mild depression & anxiety from time to time, but enjoyed life most days.
In addition to losing my town & community, my best friend had to move to Illinois to find affordable housing where she at least knew a few people.
I am an AA member and lost my twice weekly support group meetings because both our Paradise meeting halls burned and most members moved away.
My depression & anxiety are twice as bad as they were, and I don’t expect I’ll ever be the same again.
My rent has increased $175 month and my current job making enough to pay this rent may end this year and I find myself facing the possibility of losing this place permanently this time.
Thanks for giving me an opportunity to share my story.
November 5, 2021