With most of Paradise gone, many had to choose — leave or rebuild

Data pix.

PARADISE, Calif. (KTXL) -- Nov. 8, 2018, people in Paradise saw the morning sky turn black and hundreds had to run from racing flames, leaving their homes and belongings behind.

"My husband sets up manufactured homes,” said Linda Goates. “We had just finished that. He had literally put the last shingle on the carport on November 7th of last year and then the fire hit the next morning and everything was gone in one day."

Rebuilding is not a concept everyone can consider.

"We're so blessed to have gotten out, to be alive, to be healthy, to be able to come back, that that's even an option for us," Goates said.

In the last two weeks, insurance got the Goateses back into the exact same kind of home they were in a year ago. But it didn't cover the shop and garage once on their property, something friends are helping the family resurrect now.

While their neighbors on either side aren't returning, hundreds of others have committed to reclaiming their lives in Paradise.

“You know, we're a lot more rebuilt than any other disaster area in the whole country ever has been a year afterwards,” said Paradise Mayor Jody Jones. “We actually have 12 homes that have been totally rebuilt, have occupancy permits and people are back in them."

"As of today, we have received 488 building applications,” said Paradise Senior Management Analyst Collette Curtis. “We have issued 324 of those. Just to put that in perspective, in a normal year we would do five to 10."

Data pix.

Applications skyrocket, but some services are still missing

“It didn't take our hope. It didn't take our spirit. It didn't take our souls,” Paradise resident Stuart Carrier said.

Carrier has a lot of passion and optimism for his town but what he doesn't have is a permit to rebuild there.

There is a Building Resiliency Center coming soon to Paradise, aimed at helping residents get connected to the proper financial and permitting help they may need.

But Carrier said he needs something the town can’t provide yet – care for his 10-year-old son, Jace, who is quadriplegic.

“There's no hospital here. We can't come up. He needs to be close to a hospital,” Carrier said. “He's had 17 brain surgeries, been life-flighted from Feather River Hospital to Oakland 12 times."

Mayor Jones said help is coming.

“We're working really hard to re-open our emergency room. We got state legislation that's going to allow us to have an emergency room without a working hospital,” Jones said. “I couldn't answer how long it’s going to be for the hospital. It sustained quite a bit of damage."

But for those who can do without some services, the drive to rebuild is strong.

Town leaders studied other places that have experienced similar disasters to determine what to expect in the way of building applications.

"We had estimated based on that we would probably get about 200 applications by the end of this year,” Curtis said. “By December 31st, we're set to top 500, which is incredible to us."

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.