PARADISE, Calif. (KTVU) - Before the Camp Fire, Paradise, California was a ridgetop residential town and tourist haven in the Sierra foothills with a history of mining and agriculture.
Six months after the fire, as you drive around Paradise it appears, at first blush, that much of the debris remains; suggesting that a truly mind boggling task has only begun. 95 percent of the housing stock was lost; 14,000 homes and apartments. "
We had a housing crisis even before the fire and so, adding 26,000 people to that crisis has been really difficult," said Paradise Public Information Officer Colette Curtis.
The business community, 2000 strong before the fire, was also decimated.
"80 percent of the businesses were destroyed," said Ms. Curtis.
Six months after the Camp Fire, the real business of Paradise right now is being rebuilt from its ashes.
"We have about 150 businesses that are back in business in Paradise and we know that because our wonderful Paradise Ridge Chamber of Commerce went and did a door to door survey,"
Everywhere you look, crews are clearing debris, removing concrete foundations, trucking away burned vehicles, replacing infrastructure; coming here to rebuild.
"We have thousands and thousands of workers who are here doing debris removal, removing trees, doing work on the roads, working on the water system. So we have thousands of workers that are here during the day," said Curtis.
All those workers need products and services local businesses can supply.
"What we have found is many of the businesses that have come back have said, 'Wow, we're busier than before the fire.'" said Curtis.
Businesswoman Nikki Jones lost it all: two homes, two businesses and a commercial building. But, she's not going to take the insurance money and run.
"I'm investing in our Town. I want to be part of the rebuild and Paradise is my home," said Ms. Jones.
Jones has already reopened Bobbie's Boutique, a women's clothing and jewelry store. Right next door, she is getting permits for a restaurant and bar to be called "Nic's."
"We have a lot of loyal customers. We have a lot of returning customers. But we also have people who simply want to come up to Paradise and support our town. And, they are doing that by spending their dollars here," said Jones.
Bill Lyons, 30 years in business, stayed and fought the fire to save his oil change business.
"We've got people coming in from Sacramento. We've got people coming in from Redding. Corning,
Orland. I've had some people. I had somebody the other day that drove almost 400 miles to get here and they said, we had the opportunity to change the oil where we were at, but, we decided that we want to come up here and keep you guys going," said Lyons.
Now, recovery, delayed by brutal winter rains, is shifting into high gear; improving business here.
"We have 141 crews doing debris removal right now from our state program, every day, working six days week, 12 hour days getting this done and by May 15th, we're going to have 160 crews on the ground every single day," said Curtis.
With only 2,200 0f the 14,000 lots cleaned up, with only 13 residential building permits issued so far and with only 100,000 of 400,000 dead or dying trees removed, work will go on for years.
"This disaster is unprecedented in that nearly an entire community has been destroyed," said Curtis.
And, consider this: with the new climate normal, Paradise will be both a laboratory and a test bed for how to rebuild a town.