In an effort and desire to have more frequent communications with the Town of Paradise, and to regularly inform the community on the plans and progress of the Camp Fire recovery efforts, agency leaders gave an update at the Paradise Alliance Church the evening of Tuesday, August 6th. This meeting was the first in a series of recurring community meetings.
During the event each agency or organization provided an overview of progress that has been made, reviewed the next recovery steps that are scheduled to begin, and discussed resources currently available. These community leaders were available after the presentations for individual discussions with members of the community.
Highlighted throughout many of the presentations were the invaluable efforts by the Camp Fire Zone Captains group and how their communication with residents has been a resource for all the agencies. The Zone Captains are a group of individuals who represent different areas that were affected by the Camp Fire, meet regularly to share information, research rebuilding questions and identify specific needs from their respective communities. They then report back to their community leaders with those questions to provide accurate information back to the community.
From the Town of Paradise, Lauren Gill announced the formation of the Building Resource Center (BRC) that will soon be opening in Paradise in a building that was donated by Bank of America. The center is intended to be a “one-stop shop” for residents working to rebuild and will house multiple departments and agencies that will streamline the permitting process. She also reported that the town had received 223 applications so far for new home permits and that they hired a new employee to ensure code compliance in the permitting process.
Paradise Police Chief Eric Reinbold stated that the department is actively recruiting lateral police officers to assist in the patrolling of the Paradise community. He also indicated that the town’s patrol officers will receive additional training in managing the increased commercial truck operations from the California Highway Patrol.
The county announced that they are considering an amendment that will permit initial wood processing at log decks, which is not currently allowed. Casey Hatcher, County Fire Recovery Lead, stated that the County will also have an office in the BRC in Paradise giving them a presence in the community and saving time for residents when working to rebuild so they do not have to travel to Oroville. Visit Butte County Recovers for the latest recovery information.
Tina Walker, Cal OES Acting Assistant Director for Recovery, announced that physical debris removal is 75% complete and should be completed by the end of September 2019. She received applause after noting that the Camp Fire recovery process is moving along at a much quicker rate than other similar incidents in Australia and Texas. Ms. Walker also stated that plans are being developed to “stand up a tree removal program to move forward with getting those hazardous trees off your properties.” Those plans to will be announced soon.
Paradise Irrigation District (PID) has lifted water advisories on 133 homes and continues to test approximately 30-50 standing homes a week. Kevin Phillips, PID Manager, stated to residents that their “first priority is your health and safety” and that they will lift individual water advisories when they “are 100% confident that the water is safe to drink.” To date the district has installed 275 backflow devices for interim service which are required by PID before water can be served to a burned parcel, and have 400+ more to go. The district has also hired new employees to speed up the recovery process. PID is looking into funding and creative solutions to sustain the company during the rebuild process while waiting for customers to return.
Michelle John from the Paradise Unified School District (PUSD) gave an update on area schools and their plan to reopen mid-August. Due to the loss and damage of some of the PUSD campuses, administrators decided to join some schools together while damaged schools are repaired. With the help of extraordinary volunteers putting in over 10,000 hours, the four campuses opening this school year will be Paradise Junior/Senior High, Paradise Ridge Elementary, Pine Ridge/Ridgeview, and Cedarwood Elementary. They expect 1200 students to return to the ridge in August and are providing transportation from Oroville, Durham, and Chico areas. Residents were excited to hear that opening night for football would be August 23, bringing a sense of normalcy to the community. The school district is also bringing additional counselors to each campus to assist students as they transition back into the community. More information on the Fall 2019 school year can be found on the school districts web page.
Businesses in the area are slowly rebuilding and the Paradise Chamber of Commerce wants business owners to know they are there to help. The Chamber is offering local business owners some of their shared office space if needed and also have counselors that can review their business rebuild plans to offer guidance and support. They are excited to announce that they have been holding at least one ribbon cutting a week and hope to increase that pace as more businesses return. Local community event “Party in the Park” was a huge success and planning has begun for the highly anticipated “Johnny Appleseed Days” in Terry Ashe Park which will be held October 5-6, 2019. Plans for an event on the anniversary of the Camp Fire are developing and the Chamber is seeking input from the community. For more information, please visit the Paradise Chamber of Commerce’s website.
Butte County Mosquito and Vector Control announced that there are no known West Nile virus infected mosquitos in the area, but it is currently not the typical breeding season. The agency has treated all area pools and encouraged residents to keep an eye out and report any potential breeding locations as mosquito season is fast approaching. Please visit their website for more information.
Paradise Recreation and Park District is holding their summer camp with 30 children currently in the program. Both Concow and Paradise community swimming pools are open, the parks are cleared of hazardous trees and they are working on reconstructing the playground at Bille Park. Dan Efseaff, PRPD District Manager, said the district recently hosted a youth services summit to identify needs within groups. They are also seeking instructors and ideas for Fall and Spring class offerings. To view their summer activity guide or for more information visit their website.
Congressman Doug LaMalfa gave the closing remarks, thanking the panel of speakers for “knocking down barriers to get things done.” He announced that due to the Camp Fire, he was able to work with officials to reduce the census population size of the district enabling Gov. Newsom to request rural designated government funding. The Congressman is also co-sponsoring legislation with Senator Dianne Feinstein to better manage trees around power lines on federal lands. He will be hosting a Town Hall in Chico on Monday, August 12, 2019.
Representatives from Northern Recycling and Waste Services, Del Oro Water, PG&E, 2-1-1, and Comcast also provided updates and contact information for survivors to receive additional assistance and information. Future public meetings will be held the first Tuesday of each month and will be posted on the Make It Paradise’s website.