FEMA sets up disaster relief center for Butte Co. fire victims
CHICO , Calif. (KTVU) - The real, long term work for the recovery of Paradise began in earnest today on many fronts: most importantly, on the personal level.
At Chico's Pleasant Valley Baptist Church, KTVU met evacuees at a disaster relief center set up here and at two other preliminary locations which will be consolidated tomorrow.
"Trying to replace a little bit of what I used to have. I mean, I don't have nothing now," said Paradise evacuee Virginia Lizama.
Lizama does not want to move out of the area, but given the sheer scope of this disaster, she may have no choice. "Considering I'm an old lady, I'm hoping to go back. I had government housing and I'm hoping that the government replaces so that we can live back up there. It was a beautiful place to live," she said.
Some folks know their homes are gone, while others don't, such as Guy Bill, who was out of town when the fire happened, but wants to apply for benefits now if he finds he needs them.
"Hopefully they'll have and continue to have all these agencies assisting as well as they have. I'm really surprised at the gigantic cooperation," said Paradise evacuee Guy Bill.
What amazes him is his new sense of community. "The generosity and the love that I've seen come forth is overwhelming, it really is," said Bill.
So, a KTVU reporter and photographer checked on Bill's home. It was intact, unburned and still standing.
Though FEMA currently has two assistance centers, one in Oroville and one in Chico, it will soon move its operations into an abandoned Sears building in the Chico Mall. Even though no determination has been officially made as to what started the fire, one very angry, longtime resident firmly believes this is the fault of PG&E.
"What they've done is committed murder. My neighbors are dead up there thanks to PG&E and what they've done. They could have avoided this but they didn't.," said evacuee Tom Hurst.
He's also livid with the state for limiting the utility's liability. "It's going to protect PG&E and like companies from being responsible for what they've done. And now they're going to raise their rates for us to pay for what they have done," said Hurst.
One observation: KTVU saw many white suited crews in what is a massively stepped effort to find and recover any deceased remains -- something critical before any resident can get back into town.