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Paradise Moving Forward

People gathered for the Paradise Ridge Chamber of Commerce meeting Tuesday. Photo credit: Jack Lewis

The Paradise Community Information Meeting was held at the Paradise Alliance Church on Nov. 5 to announce the progress of various agencies involved in the Camp Fire cleanup and show off the town’s plans going into the new year.

A few of the agencies that presented at the meeting included Federal Emergency Management Agency, Paradise Police Department, Paradise Unified School District and several others involving the various issues the town is facing.

“Because the fire was unprecedented, so too must our solutions, “town manager Lauren Gill said at the start of the meeting.

From debris and sewer projects to the future of their children’s education, Paradise officials all gave their statements to uplift and inform the citizens that attended the meeting.

And uplift they did, even bringing up the blaze that happened nearly a year ago, not one major piece of information was stated that had anyone’s heads down.

One of the major problems Paradise faced once the fire was finally extinguished was the debris scattered on the roads and the burnt trees littering the town. According to Paradise police chief Eric Reinbold, nearly all the debris has been removed from the town.

“Nearly 600 tons of debris have been removed, ” Camp Fire debris operations commander Dena Wilson said. “The amount of debris we have removed is equivalent to approximately four Golden Gate bridges.”

Most of this debris has been brought to locations all over Butte County. Much of the scrap metal is being recycled at centers in locations such as Orville and Durham.

One question Paradise residents have had has been on how safe the town is to live in. a speaker from Paradise Irrigations District Kevin Phillips addressed these concerns, largely revolving around water safety and pipe testing.

“We have tested over 3,400 water pipes and 97% has come out clean, but that 3% is a huge point of concern,” Phillips said. “Our target goal, 100% purity, would be within the next three years.”

The county has also placed air monitoring systems around the town, constantly monitoring the air for potential hazards and making sure that it is safe to inhabit the town. As of now, the town’s air is at a healthy level and perfectly fine to breathe.

Another topic of concern was addressed by the superintendent of the Paradise Unified School District, Michelle John.

According to John, only 52% of students are currently enrolled in the school district, with many about to graduate. A major issue is that there are more students graduating than there are coming in, with a huge decrease in enrollment.

“The future of Paradise are the children,” John said. “We are currently transporting students to our schools from all over Butte County who still wish to stay with their friends and teachers.”

On the economy side of the rebuild process, the Executive Director of the Paradise Ridge Chamber of Commerce Monica Nolan spoke about how they are working with local businesses to reopen.

According to Nolan, there is now an online database to keep track of what businesses have already reopened, and that they are trying to keep the culture of the ridge alive.

Nolan also mentioned that the bulk of business and housing on the ridge now reside in Magalia, a nearby town also affected by the fire.

One year after the fire began, many around Paradise and Chico believe the cleanup and rebuilding process would take much longer, with some believing the town would never get back on its feet.

However, the resilience and stamina present in the Paradise community has proven to be next to none. Previous resident Brooke Nonneman, who lived there her entire life before the fire, believes the rebuilding process is off to a great start and wants everyone to treasure what they have before it’s too late.

“Appreciate every little thing you have because you never know when something this horrible will happen again,” Nonneman said.

Jack Lewis and Joel Peterson can be reached at [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Jack Lewis
Jack Lewis, Reporter
Jack Lewis is a Journalism major and History minor who came to Chico from the small town of Sonoma, California. Growing up in Sonoma, he was heavily influenced by the local journalism of the Sonoma Index-Tribune, a paper which inspired him to pursue a career in journalism. Lewis currently writes for the opinion section of The Orion, having previously covered stories for both enterprise and breaking news. This is Lewis’ second semester writing for The Orion, and he is looking forward to overcoming the challenges of the current pandemic to produce exciting stories for the Chico community.

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