PARADISE — As the Camp Fire continues to rage in Butte County, personal stories from survivors and firefighters are emerging.
Jody Jones – Mayor of Paradise
Mayor Jody Jones lost everything to the fire that raged through her town. She estimates the majority of Paradise’s homes are gone.
“It’s pretty devastating. It’s huge,” she told FOX40. “I would say 90 percent of our homes are gone. The entire town council lost their homes, half of our police department, most of our town administrative staff, just about every friend I know.”
David Hawks – Paradise Fire Chief
For the last five years, David Hawks has served as the fire chief for the town of Paradise.
“Paradise is home to me,” Hawks said.
Hawks grew up in Paradise, which was nearly destroyed in a matter of hours after the Camp Fire swept through. His childhood home is lost.
His family evacuated safely, so instead of rushing over to his parents’ home when the call came in, he went to work.
“I got into my firefighting gear and immediately responded to Pentz Road, which was where the fire was first reported in Paradise,” he said.
Hawks and his crew tried to put out each fire that sparked throughout town, but it wasn’t enough.
“As you can picture a snow blizzard, it’s just an ember blizzard,” Hawks told FOX40. “And all those embers were pelting homes and pelting the ground.”
Hawks says 90 percent of Paradise was reduced to rubble and ash — but he’s confident Paradise will be Paradise again.
Nick and Michelle Thompson
Nick Thompson was pouring concrete when the sky turned black.
“We really didn’t hear any sirens or anything like that and then the ash started raining down on us. Workers just started leaving,” he said. “Little did I know, all of Paradise was on fire.”
On the other side of town was his wife, Michelle, and their 3-year-old son, Rome. Her friend convinced her to pack up her things, and she grabbed her son, the family dogs and, on her way out, a painting.
Nick frantically tried to flee as flames surrounded him. Like many, he encountered gridlock and panic as the fire raged.
Their home was one of the thousands the fire destroyed.
“There’s nothing to go back to,” Michelle Thompson said.
But there are things the fire couldn’t claim. The portrait Michelle Thompson grabbed as she fled was painted by Nick when he asked her to marry him. A small reminder that, most importantly, they still have each other.
Many shelters were full Monday but there are still some with room for evacuees. Ian Franklin, an evacuee from Paradise, was staying in a tent outside of the Oroville Church of the Nazarene.
“There are a lot of other people who need to have cots, who don’t have as much as we do,” Franklin told FOX40. “So we figured we’re young and we’re able so we’ll just stay out here and the other people can go ahead and get the cots.”