Merced County Times Newspaper
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Paradise, California On The Comeback

John Derby Headshot
Times Publisher John Derby

Paradise, California is like a moonscape.

It has been more than two and half years since the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California’s history — the Camp Fire. The blaze was also the most expensive natural disaster in the world in 2018 in terms of insured losses.

Today, there are some new homes being built on what were once fully landscaped lots. Now there are very few live trees, and the cutting down and removal of burned trees goes on.

Many people who own the lots aren’t doing anything with them because they are expecting a big pay off when PG&E settles its court case. However, there are those here in Paradise who feel the only winners will be the lawyers, as the case drags on year after year.

About 11,000 homes were destroyed during the firestorm in Paradise. Some of the burned off lots are being sold; however, these only make a dent in the hundreds which sit untouched.

Some houses are being built with insurance payoffs. Manufactured homes are going up, but the City of Paradise is fighting to prevent this from being a manufactured home community. Permits are tough to get, and since all the homes are on septic tanks, this is a major point of contention.

Investors see easy money; however, there is nothing easy about it.

Businesses are coming back, slowly. Almost every week, there is something new opening up. Services in a lot of areas are lacking.

You can’t find a builder, and if you could they would demand top dollar.

The town lost its hospital and it will not be coming back. This is a major hit for the elderly population who are going to have to drive to Chico or Oroville for advanced medical care. There will be a medical clinic, but not nearly adequate medical care to serve the population as it comes back.

The COVID-19 Pandemic was like a double whammy for Paradise. Many businesses which survived the fire went under because of the Pandemic.

Warm weather and the possible end of the Pandemic has brought out the young people in shorts and T-shirts. They have had it with being forced to mask and distance. There are a few signs on businesses saying customers must mask.

One of the few motels which survived the fire, had no vacancies recently at $140 a night. The fire cleanup crews have plenty of money and plan to spend it on comfort.

Traffic up and down from the valley floor, makes Paradise seem like a boom town. It is just as if gold or silver was discovered. It may be just that for a few, but recovery will be slow. Paradise is still in a “high risk” fire zone. People who were paying $1,500 for insurance before the fire now pay twice that amount.

The local high school and middle school got a windfall as a result of the fire and now have a brand new gymnasium. Chico State University announced it would hold in-person graduation for both this year’s graduates and last year’s graduates.

Spring is in the air, and in Paradise, California, nothing will stop it.

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