Settling Into a New Normal While Still Remembering My Roots

As with everyone who was affected by the 2018 wildfire, the Camp Fire changed my life, but it wasn’t necessarily for the worst. 

Going to bed on November 7 was just like every other night. I had been preparing to run in a mock election my eighth grade class was having. I was so excited, I couldn’t wait. Even the morning of November 8th started off normal: my family got up early, and my dad had to bring a trailer to work so they could move offices. My dad was hooking up the trailer when he first saw the smoke. Knowing how to read smoke, he didn’t seem alarmed at first, and he and I took some pictures, and continued with what we were doing. But maybe 10 or 20 minutes later, at 7:45, my dad told us we had to go. We were much luckier than most. We had about 45 minutes to grab our things. Clothes, pictures, and important documents and items were grabbed. Then we locked the door to our house, and left. 

My mom, brother, and I were in one car, and my dad took his truck. We lived at the far end of Paradise, near Noble Orchards, so it took us a long time to get out of Paradise.

Makenna Wines

My mom and dad kept in contact for a little bit, until the cell towers went down. For six hours, my mom, brother, and I were stuck in traffic. We saw a lot of panicked people, and were surrounded by fire several times. Another two hours went by after we escaped before we heard from my dad again, and knew he was alright. We met up at a family friend’s house, where young kids tried to distract my brother and me. 

Going down the hill that day, my parents had already decided we weren’t going to rebuild. 

For a month, we stayed in our RV at an RV park in Chico. During that time, many of our family and friends helped us out. About three weeks after the fire, we bought a house in Chico that we were very lucky to get. We weren’t able to move in until February, so we took over a lease from a colleague of my mom’s, and shared a rental house for a few months in Chico with my great aunt and uncle, who had been in Disneyland with their grandkids at the time of the fire, and lost everything. 

Makenna Wines

After that, things started to settle into a new normal. I finished my eighth grade year at Achieve Charter School, and became Valedictorian, as well as the Mason’s Student of the Year Award. There were still times in the first year where I’d be really upset, and I’d cry, and I’d be angry at the things I missed, but moving to Chico offered so much better opportunities for me. For example, my parents hadn’t been sure where to send me for high school. Once we moved to Chico, the answer became clear. Also, it turns out, someone I had met through one of my closest friends a few years before, who I had just started to become friends with before the fire, moved basically down the street from my new house, and since then, we’ve become so close, and along with our mutual friend, we’ve become The Three Musketeers. 

Starting a new school in a new town is never easy. Aside from that, I was transitioning from a 200 student K-8 school to an almost 2,000 student high school. Even though there were a few familiar faces, my friends all went to different schools, and I felt alone starting my freshmen year. Now, in my junior year, I’m much more comfortable with the kids on campus now that we’re all back, and I’ve joined clubs and sports on campus. I have friends in my classes, and I joke around and have fun. 

Despite how much I love living in Chico, I am never going to stop missing Paradise, or having that moment of nostalgia. Recently, I drove up to Paradise with my cousin and my grandparents to visit my cousin’s house, which had been rebuilt after the fire. My cousin and I had lived down the street from each other for years. His family rebuilt, and we moved to Chico. Going down the familiar Wagstaff Rd, the road I had taken thousands of times, made me momentarily forget the last three years, and I thought I was going home—the home I had known for 13 years. When I remembered I wasn’t going there, it hit me harder than I expected. I haven’t felt this way in probably two years. I still miss that home: the memories, laughter, and all the fun my family had in that house. But, I will always be thankful for the opportunities Chico has given my family. My parents are closer to work, I go to a phenomenal school, and I have been able to flourish my relationship with my oldest friend, and created a brand new friendship with someone who I hadn’t done so with before. These are the things that truly matter, moving forward with people you love, and the people who love you back.