PARADISE, Calif. (KTXL) -- A year before the Camp Fire, Karen Eppenbach started playing the bagpipes with the Butte County Scottish Society Pipe and Drum Band.
Eppenbach has lived in Paradise since she retired in 2012. When she was told to evacuate as flames quickly approached last year, she didn’t grab photographs or documents.
“Interestingly, one of the first things I grabbed out of the fire was my bagpipes and my kilts,” she said.
Soon after she left, her home burned to the ground.
“It’s hard to believe it’s been a whole year,” Eppenbach said. “I mean, part of it still seems like, ‘Oh no, this didn’t really happen,’ you know, ‘I’m going to go back to my house.’ But I don’t have a house.”
Neither do two other members of the band. The others just got lucky.
“Our band director fought with his wife for 17 hours with shovels only to save their home,” said musician Thomas Parker. “And they did. They saved their home.”
Parker said the fire stopped within a few miles of his house. He wrote a song for those who were not so lucky, which was performed at the groundbreaking for Hope Plaza.
Hope Plaza is a new memorial park going up in Paradise to honor the dead and the first responders who saved countless others.
For the band, playing at that moment in time was healing. Eppenbach said playing the instrument she saved is cathartic.
“I call it my happy place because it’s like a nice diversion from what happened,” she said.
Eppenbach said she believes Friday’s milestone is a signal Paradise can and will return from the ashes.
“It’s like, OK, I survived the first year. I’m just going to get through the second year,” Eppenbach told FOX40. “I’m just going to keep moving forward."