This is the first post that I have written on this blog that actually has nothing to do with Japan. This post is about my hometown, Paradise, California, which was pretty much wiped off the face of the earth within a matter of hours on Thursday, November 8th, 2018 in the Camp Fire (named after “Camp Creek Road” – the place where the fire started).
*Update* I received confirmation this morning (November 14th, local time) that my family’s house (pictured above) was in fact burned down in this fire. I figured it was, seeing so many pictures and videos of the fire overtaking the town, but it was still a shock to find out for sure.
I have set up a GoFundMe and I am asking friends, relatives, and kind strangers for donations to help my family recover from this disaster. If you would consider donating or even just sharing my donation page to facebook, twitter, etc. it would mean a lot to me and to my family.
Before I get into the details of the fire, I would first like to write a little about my home and my family who was affected by this tragedy.
My parents settled in Paradise about 30 years ago. I was born a few years after, at Feather River Hospital (which has now been badly damaged by the fire).
Growing up, I never really appreciated my hometown. My house, pictured above and below, was located at the end of a small un-paved road. Now as I look at the few pictures of my house that survived (most of my pictures from before I moved to Japan in 2013 are not digital) I can see why this town was called Paradise.
My parents, who recently retired, loved their house and the town they lived in.
I have been planning a trip home to Paradise with Seiya this Christmas for months now. I was really looking forward to it. There were so many things I wanted to show him. Places I wanted to take him. People I wanted him to meet.
I think that was one of the most shocking parts of this whole thing. The realization that not only would I never get to go home again, but that I would never get the chance to share it all with the one I love.
We are still planning to go visit my parents, but it’s all up in the air where any of us are going to stay and what we are going to do now that the town is gone.
My brother (pictured above with my parents) was also living and working in Paradise, but with both his home and his workplace gone, and not much more than the change in his pocket, I don’t know what he is going to do moving forward.
But our stories are not unique. Nearly all of the residents of Paradise, California, are facing the same tragedy.
Luckily, my family has evacuated to safety. But 85 others (and counting) were not so lucky, as the remains have been found in burnt up cars and houses around the town. In addition, 249 residents are currently missing (updated Nov. 25).
So far, 19,124 structures have been confirmed to have been destroyed, including almost 15,000 homes (updated November 25). This makes it by far the most destructive fire in the history of California.
An estimated 52,000 people fled the area. Many of them will not have homes to return to.
People reported driving through the flames to get out of town. Some people had to get out of burning cars and run. Others were stranded in open parking lots without cars, waiting for rescue teams to come help them.
Many people stayed behind in an attempt to fight the fire and protect their homes. Unfortunately, most of them just ended up watching their homes burn helplessly as the fire took over.
The Camp Fire burned a total of 153,336 acres, and is now 100% contained as of November 25th. A few days of rain helped the firefighters to contain the fire and clear the air of black smoke which reached as far as San Francisco (a three and a half hour drive from Paradise).
This is all that remains of Paradise Elementary School.
A lone wheelchair where a senior residence used to stand.
All those antiques destroyed.
The church was not spared.
Safeway, the supermarket I had been going to since I was a little girl, and my part-time job in high school.
I don’t think anyone will be buying this car, unfortunately.
The pictures and videos of the destruction caused by this fire being uploaded every day onto Facebook in the last few days are seemingly endless. Almost all the people I knew growing up are now homeless.
I’m very lucky to be where I am and to have such an amazing supportive boyfriend to help me through all of this. My parents are lucky that they have a lot of friends who are offering up their couches.
In terms of what we lost in this fire, a lot of people are saying “It’s just stuff.” And while I know they mean well, I can’t agree.
It’s not just stuff to me. It’s my home. It’s my childhood. It’s everything from the first 20 years of my life.
But despite the pain and sorrow, and the disappointment, we will be okay. We will never forget, but somehow we will move forward and go on with our lives.
Donations are appreciated. If you would like to donate but don’t have the resources available to do so, please consider sharing our donation page on Facebook or other SNS. Thank you for your kindness.