The Town We Loved So Much

Wildfires are out-of-control fires in a natural area, such as forests, grasslands or prairies. They usually start unintentionally. They spread rapidly and can damage natural resources, destroy homes and threaten the safety of people and firefighters. The present experiences were drawn from people who were affected by the Camp Fire – Emely Perez-Olvera


The day began as usual as I woke up on a beautiful brisk November morning in Paradise.  I let my dog, Mary, out to do her business, got ready for work and drove down the Skyway to PV High School.  Around 7:30 AM, a student came rushing into my classroom and asked me if I noticed the giant plume of smoke from the fire near Paradise.  Concerned, I called home, but got no answer. Little did I know that my husband had gone to pick up our daughter, Michelle, as school had been cancelled.  Not knowing the threat of the fire, my husband, Karl, brought our kids down to Chico.  Karl dropped our son, Robert, off at school at Core Butte High School. He and Michelle tried to return home, but the Skyway to Paradise had been closed.

Later that afternoon, I met my family at a restaurant called, “The Lab,” not knowing anything except that we could not go home and get our dog.  Contemplating, “what now,” we ran into an old friend who offered us a place to stay for a few days.  We went to Kmart to grab some everyday essentials (toothbrush, deodorant, underwear, etc.) as we realized that all we had was what we were wearing.   It was a nightmare not knowing the status of our beloved dog and home. Three days later, we learned that our dog had perished, our home for the last 20 years, had burnt to the ground, and Karl’s truck was but a heap of melted metal.   In the months that followed the fire, we lived with friends, in a hotel, in an apartment, and eventually bought a home in Forest Ranch where we are making new memories. We now have a dog named Teddy as well. We still have our property in Paradise as it gives us comfort knowing that we have a connection to the town we loved so much!

Over the past 3 years, my family and I have grown closer and have learned to appreciate what we have. As the days after the fire passed by, we slowly adjusted to our “new normal.”  Some days, it was just putting one foot in front of the other, and figuring out what needed to be done next.  Some of the things we miss are our wonderful neighbors, pictures of our kids when they were young, our dog, Mary, high school yearbooks, family heirlooms, and our favorite t-shirts and jeans!  We lost a wonderful, elderly neighbor that day in the fire and are saddened that we could not have done more to save her.  Even though it has been 3 years since the fire, the details of that November day are as vivid and raw as the fire itself.  Life does go on, bittersweet as the anniversary of the Campfire looms near every year, but we have our memories and positive attitudes that no fire can ever take away!