Smoke lingered on Skyway as Patti Lloyd walked the now infamous road that winds through the foothills of the Sierra Nevada to the town of Paradise.
It’s an all-too-familiar sight in this part of Northern California, where nearly two years ago the state’s deadliest wildfire killed 85 residents and destroyed much of the suburban city of 27,000 and neighboring communities.
This time the smoke is coming from the west side of the North Complex fire, a huge 252,31
Lloyd was hauling boxes to his newly built home in the city, having lost the old one in hell in 2018. “It’s scary,” he said. “It triggers a lot of feelings than before. I feel sorry for the people who are going through this moment because I know how it feels. “
Earlier this week part of heaven was under an evacuation notice, although the order has since been lifted. The dark skies, crowded streets and thick smoke blanket, however, brought back painful memories for a community still struggling for reconstruction. On Friday the smoke was shrouded over the city like fog and the ash piled up on the sidewalks blew into the air.
The fires have caused Lloyd, who is an artist, to wonder if he wants to return to an area that will likely always be at risk of fires. But for now, Lloyd says, she and her boyfriend intend to. They have a beautiful new home waiting, with a studio where Lloyd can make his art. The trees have disappeared, but their rose and lavender garden has survived and Lloyd can’t wait to return and be among friends.
“Everyone who went through that fire is now tied up,” he said.
Iris Natividad, who lost her partner, Andrew Downer, home and dog two years ago, plans to rebuild a lot along the city’s eastern edge. When the evacuation notice went into effect on Tuesday, she was among those who had left.
You can’t escape it. This is climate change. This is what our life is now
“It was just too much chaos. Skyway was just backed up just like it was in the camp fire. Everyone was in a panic. “
The experience made her reflect on her rebuilding plans, especially since her future home could be among the first to be affected if a fire like camp fire were to repeat itself. For now, she stands still. Fires are burning across the west, he argued. “You can’t escape. This is climate change. This is our life now.”
“Heaven is my home,” he added. “I will not live in fear. I will rebuild and do what I can to protect myself, stay proactive and learn what I can to live in a zone of fire.”
The vast majority of Paradise’s former residents have done so have settled in other towns in Butte County, while some 3,000 residents have returned to the town itself. The people who have chosen to live and work on The Ridge share a sense of determination to make it a beautiful place to live again.
“If you don’t dream about it, it won’t happen,” said Bill Hartley, who is in the process of rebuilding his home and involved in many of the revitalization efforts. Despite the heavy smoke outside, the mood was positive at Nic’s in Paradise when Hartley had lunch on Friday afternoon and ran into friends and colleagues.
“Wherever you go, you have to start over,” Hartley said. “Here we can start over with friends.”
It was a sentiment echoed by Nicki Jones, 75, who only opened Nic’s last year.
Jones, whose new home is expected to be ready for move next month, said despite the threat of fires, he doesn’t want to live anywhere else. The company was doing well, he said, even as the Covid-19 pandemic had brought new challenges.
“I love what I do and I love my city,” he said. “This keeps me going.”
On the way to the Treasures from Paradise antique shop, shoppers streamed in all afternoon, even though the shop wasn’t technically open. Barbara and Rick Manson had planned to keep the store closed on Friday to clean up the thick ash that had accumulated outside and along the porch, but customers kept coming in, looking for a slice of normalcy amidst another disaster. The Mansons could not repel them.
“Many people are suffering. I think people thought the fires were behind us, ”said Barbara Manson. The couple opened their new location in 2019 after losing their 18-year-old shop in the camp fire.
“We’ll be here until the place burns up around us,” he added as a handful of shoppers walked around the store, admiring the small antiques and inspecting the heaven-themed items, T-shirts and metal signs.
“It won’t burn here again,” said her husband, Rick. “He can not.”
However, they took their important documents out of the store and Rick wet the grass outside. In the case of.