An Ice Rink in Paradise Reopens Just in Time for Christmas, Bringing Smiles to Camp Fire Survivors

PARADISE -- Signs of life are returning to Paradise after the Camp Fire wiped out much of the town more than a month ago.

Some businesses have reopened and the health center is helping patients again.

A special holiday tradition is even making a comeback.

Sliding and gliding along the Paradise ice rink is a holiday tradition for the Thrash family.

“They really need this today. Just for a little bit of normalcy,” said Janice Thrash, after a month that’s been anything but normal for her grandchildren.

“We were stuck in the fire for over five hours. We’re lucky to be alive,” Thrash said.

Thousands of businesses and homes were wiped off the map but the rink made it through.

“You look around and so much devastation is all around us, but this little area was kind of saved. I just think it was meant to be,” said Gayle Jaarsma with the Paradise Recreation and Park District.

The ice-skating rink, originally set to open Nov. 9, the day after the fire started, opened more than a month later.

“We have gotten so much feedback on our Facebook page. Saying ‘It’s here, it’s not burnt. Can we open it?’” Jaarsma stated.

So, in roughly three days, Jaarsma and her team worked diligently to get the rink running in time for Christmas.

They had to get gas, electricity and water running at the site, as well as replace a septic line destroyed in the fire. Not to mention they had to decorate.

A Christmas tree was one of the only things that survived when a local nursery burned down in the fire. It’s why they donated it to decorate the rink as a sign of survival.

“It’s tough. Everybody is going through a lot. But we’re alive. My glass was always half full in life… and it’s totally full now,” Thrash exclaimed.

Thrash’s grandkids know that Paradise may never be the same but Saturday, even if just for a moment, they got to feel like kids again in a town that will always be home.

“It’s fun. It takes some of the stress away but gives you more about falling on your face,” 10-year-old Alyce Sanchez said with excitement.

The rink will stay open now through Jan. 13.

The fire also destroyed the Zamboni used to smooth the ice, so workers will be doing that by hand for the time being.

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