Camp Fire: My point-of-view from Nov. 8 and beyond

The street sign on the corner of Kibler and Nunneley roads post Camp Fire. Photo credit: Trenton Taylor

The street sign on the corner of Kibler and Nunneley roads post Camp Fire. Photo credit: Trenton Taylor

Trenton Taylor

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“Hey, our house is going to be gone within the next couple of hours, can you come up and help us evacuate?”

I wasn’t even 10 minutes through my morning class on Nov. 8 when I got this phone call from my dad. I immediately hung up the phone and ran across campus to my car to try and get up to Paradise, where my family lived.

My mom was in Sacramento that day for a conference. When I called her while rushing to my dad, she said she was on her way and would get to Chico as soon as she could.

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The street sign on the corner of Kibler and Nunneley roads post Camp Fire. Photo credit: Trenton Taylor

I reached the intersection of Bruce and Skyway Road but was stopped by California Highway Patrol to turn around because the road back up to Paradise was already closed. Despite being upset that I couldn’t help my dad, little did I know that CHP probably saved my life by telling me no.

As I frantically drove around Chico trying to get a hold of my friends who were experiencing hell, a few minutes later my dad called back. He told me not to come up to the house because the fire was almost there.

I could hear the panic in his voice as loud explosions from propane tanks filled the background of the phone call. He asked me if there was anything he wanted me to grab from my family home and thankfully, he saved a box full of old memories from my high school and middle school years.

I ended up back at my Chico house where I had just moved in 4 days prior to the fire. Sitting on the front porch, with my face buried in my hands, I bawled my eyes out with my roommates who left their classes to comfort me. I looked up at what was the now the pitch black, morning sky and prayed that my dad and sister would make it out alive.

Hours had gone by when my dad finally called to let me know that they were safe and were heading to my grandparents’ house, who also lived in Chico. I never hugged my family closer than I did then when I saw them get out of their cars that day.

The City of Chico welcomed Camp Fire survivors with open arms. Businesses of all kinds loved and supported us in whatever ways they could. The donations were coming in from everywhere.

I worked at Dutch Bros in Paradise and the crew from our headquarters in Oregon rallied shops from all over the country to collect donations and send them our way. The Dutch Bros from Santa Rosa brought up their mobile truck that we took to different shelters in Chico, as well as the Cal Fire base camp at the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds to deliver free drinks for everyone. Doing what we do best was our way of showing support to those who needed it most.

It is now November 2019 and a lot has happened in a year, although it feels like the Camp Fire happened yesterday. From my time working at the Paradise Dutch Bros since the fire, I have gotten to see a lot of the rebuilding efforts that brought in clean-up crews from all over the country.

Our customers tell us that we are a “beacon of hope” for the community. With each passing day, I notice another lot or two cleared from leftover fire debris and ready to build on. Every other passing vehicle is a dump truck headed out to their next location. They sometimes cause traffic that makes me late for work, but those truck drivers come through our Dutch Bros stand to get their coffee fix for the day and I will forever cherish the relationships I developed with them.

I recently watched the Netflix documentary “Fire in Paradise” and the footage made me thankful that I was in my 8 a.m. class that day. I am fortunate to say that my family made it out alive, but my heart still aches for those who lost loved ones in the fire.

My family, thankfully, was able to secure an apartment in Chico on the day of the fire, infamously known as the day before a massive housing crisis in Chico began. It may not be home, but it works given the circumstances.

The resilience and optimism showed by my family and the rest of our community are what inspire me to keep moving forward. We can get past any obstacle that might get in the way, even if it’s a 15-foot-wall of flames.

Trenton Taylor can be reached at @t_taylor34 on twitter and at [email protected]

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