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 11:30PM 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.
About the Author: Higman Graphics
I am a graphic designer, printer and promotional product distributor. I have 35 years in the design and graphics industry starting as a typographer by trade before there were personal computers. I have lived in Chico for 18 years and I love the area, the people and the beautiful surroundings. The Camp Fire changed everything. Obviously for all who lived in the burned area but also for my immediate family members that lost everything, my company also lost many clients. #buttestrong #magaliastrong #concowstrong #paradisestrong #wewillrebuild