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A Place Called Paradise


The debris of burned homes and trees has been removed leaving empty lots in a neighborhood in Paradise that was almost completely destroyed by the Camp Fire. (Elizabeth Lee/VOA News)

In the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in Northern California, there is a town on a ridge called Paradise. The area used to look like a forest, with homes nestled among tall pines and oak trees.

In just a few days, however, the landscape changed dramatically. The population of approximately 26,800 evacuated Paradise on November 8, 2018, when a wildfire ravaged the town and surrounding communities.

The fire burned for nearly three weeks, destroying 90% of Paradise. Eighty-five people lost their lives in the disaster. A year later, only around 2,000 residents live in Paradise. Many survivors now live in other cities and towns. Some people are still displaced and living in travel trailers.

The few residents who have remained or returned to Paradise are vehement about rebuilding the town and making it better and more beautiful. From home builders and house painters to a church pastor and football players, the people who still live, work or go to school in Paradise are, in their own way, restoring the heart of the town.

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