Camp Fire: Three years since California's deadliest wildfire

Monday marked the third anniversary of the Camp Fire, not just the state's deadliest and costliest wildfire, but a defining moment for the climate change argument, the state's limited resources, and the fate of PG&E.

Three years ago on Nov. 8, the concept of wildfires took a wild turn when the Butte County town of Paradise, with a population of 26,218, was essentially burned off the map.

The fire sparked around 6:30 a.m. Flames shot through the town and the smoke was thick as molasses. There was a sense of an apocalypse.

Ultimately the fire consumed 18,804 buildings, 95% of the town's structures. In all, 86 died in the Camp Fire, tens of thousands displaced, many in makeshift camps down the mountain in Chico. It remains the deadliest and most destructive fire in California's history.

On the first anniversary of the fire, artist Jessie Mercer collected and formed 12,000 keys found in the debris of the homes and buildings, including from those who perished, into a Phoenix with the symbol of Paradise rising from the ashes.

"It's just pretty profound and the trust that people gave me for a year, I don't know how to thank you except for what I did which was give this right back to the people," said Mercer a year after the fire.

Cafe Owner Nicki Jones was one of the first to rebuild and reopen for the first anniversary.

"It was important to me to reopen in Paradise because Paradise is my home and part of my goal for this is to be an example to the community, like, 'Hey we can do it,'" Jones said a year after the fire.

On the second anniversary of the fire, the stark reality of rebuilding was a constant topic.

"We had so many many problems with insurance companies not paying, making us jump through all kinds of hoops. Insurance companies were just bailing on people," said Steve "Woody" Culleton, a Paradise survivor.

There was also the fear of premium increases to come.

"If they want to start charging me two to three times per year how much I'm paying now, that may make a big difference on whether I can stay here or not," said Vicki Taylor.

Now, three years later, not even 10,000 people live in the town where 26,000 once dwelt. But the recovery continues.