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'We're going to be the place to be' | Paradise mayor hopes to have third of population back by next year

On the three year anniversary of the Camp Fire, construction sounds fill the air in Paradise as more homeowners continue to rebuild.

PARADISE, Calif. — Nov. 8 of 2021 marks three years since the Camp Fire ripped through the small town of Paradise and nearby communities.

14,000 homes burned down and, three years later, only 1,092 homes have been rebuilt, according to the Town of Paradise. Over on Skyway Road, 85 somber flags honor each person killed in the Camp Fire. 

The mayor of Paradise says he is confident he will have nearly a third of the town's population back and into new homes by this time next year.

Mary Anne and Don Cooper remember the moment they decided that they weren't done with Paradise. It was when they risked their lives evacuating from raging fire.  

RELATED: 'The plan was out the window': How the Camp Fire became California’s deadliest

"When we saw the flames coming up on the Honey Run side, we knew the house was going to be gone," Mary Anne Cooper said. "And we just knew we were going to come back anyway, right then and there." 

They spent some time staying with family in Sacramento and later rented a house in Red Bluff before they got the green light last August to move into their new home, which is on the same plot of land. 

"I just like being here; I'm so glad to be back," Mary Anne Cooper said.

Now, construction sounds fill the air in her neighborhood.

"It's all progress; it's the sound of progress in this town coming back together," Don Cooper said.

But others haven't been so lucky. Some survivors are still staying in RV's on the same plot of land where they lost everything three years ago. Their future homes are still tied up in the permitting process, but others decided not to come back at all. 

"We've got a couple hundred multi-family units that have been complete. We have 2,000 building permits in process," Steve Crowder, the mayor of Paradise, said.

Mayor Crowder says by this time next year, near the fourth anniversary of the of the fire, he's expecting to get Paradise to a population of 10,000 people. Before the fire, that number was around 27,000 people. 

RELATED: A glimpse of Paradise, before the fires

"We were probably 2,000 after the fire, so we're making a lot of forward progress," Crowder said. "We've still got a lot of work to do; we still got a lot of people (who) need help getting back home and we're working on that."

He says they're transforming into more of a fire-safe community with each new building being built up to Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) standards with fire-hardened roofs, sidings and windows.

"We're going to be the place to be," Crowder said.


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