The debris of burned homes and trees has been removed leaving empty lots in a neighborhood in Paradise that was almost completel
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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PARADISE HIGH SCHOOL

Within a year of the Camp Fire, the Paradise High School football team was undefeated this season, earning a spot in the play-offs. Only three players still live in Paradise. Most of the football players lost their homes in the fire and are commuting from nearby towns, a few traveling more than an hour to get to school. The coaches say they have learned a lot of life lessons from the students.

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MAGALIA COMMUNITY CHURCH

For the last year, The Magalia Community Church has served as a distribution site for Camp Fire survivors. Many Paradise and Magalia residents are still homeless and living with relatives and friends, in trailers or in tents. The church continues to provide food, hygiene items, showers, laundry facilities and counseling services for survivors. The church's pastor says this is a place where miracles happen.

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LORI HORNBACK

For the last year, The Magalia Community Church has served as a distribution site for The 2018 Camp Fire destroyed Lori Hornback and her husband, Jon's home in Paradise. The Hornbacks have decided to stay in Paradise. They own a construction company and are helping other families rebuild their homes in Paradise.

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VALENTIN MARTINEZ

Long-time resident Valentine Martinez paints houses for a living. He rented a home in Paradise and lived there with his family when the Camp Fire raged through town and destroyed homes. A year after the fire, his neighborhood is filled with empty lots. Martinez and his family are not returning to Paradise anytime soon.