LaMalfa remembers Camp Fire on 5th Anniversary

Today Congressman Doug LaMalfa released the following statement in observation of the fifth anniversary of the Camp Fire.

Congressman Doug LaMalfa.

The morning of Nov. 8, 2018, held promise of a good day. For many, the harvest had come in and there was relief for the public, as well as candidates, of another election being behind all of us. I heard of a fire starting in the Feather River Canyon on what seemed to be a breezy morning.

That can’t be good with recent history and forest fuel loads being what they are, I thought at the time. What occurred in the next few hours was nearly unimaginable. An infrequent strong wind from the east changed tens of thousands of lives and memories forever. The communities of Concow, Yankee Hill, Magalia, and Paradise now faced the nightmare that many had dreaded for decades. Eighty-six lives lost. Incredible stories of narrow escapes and survival on crowded evacuation routes. Stories of small miracles within long odds and crushing destruction. For many, it’s hard to believe that it has already been five years, for others, seeking housing and meeting basic needs, or mourning the loss of loved ones and irreplaceable memories and the shock of the sudden uprooting caused by the inferno at their heels, time has felt like it crawled by.

From that moment, the immediate resiliency, the pulling together by so, so many in Northern California, and a whole nation that watched breathlessly at the loss and started right then to help. Lessons learned from the somewhat recent Oroville Dam spillway failure and the “dry run” evacuation helped.

Lassen Ale Works raised $11,800 for the Camp Fire Relief Fund during the recent Pints for Paradise fundraiser held at the Boardroom. The total includes $1,926 raised during Grocery Outlet’s fundraiser. Ace Hardware, Bottle & Brush Art Bar, Chris Bielecki, Cruise n Games, Grocery Outlet, Hole-in-One Ranch, Hulsman Ranch, Les Schwab, Livid Edge, Lynda Burkhalter, Mountain Yoga, Norman Mah Financial Services, Payless Building Supply, Shaded Addictions, Susanville Real Estate, Susanville Supermarket IGA, Therese Fowler Bailey, Thomas Herrera, Tim and Gina Nobles and Tractor Supply provided silent auction items.

Agencies at every level and volunteer groups pulled together in a way unseen before. Federal agencies, typically accustomed to floods and hurricanes, and perhaps earthquakes, had little experience in wildfire devastation consuming sizable communities. Their cooperation in helping with state and local agencies, bypassing bureaucracy as much as possible was commendable. Although it cannot come quickly enough when you’ve lost everything or are displaced, it was a great effort. The immediate forensics of finding the lost souls took special skills and people of strength. Soon after, the mass effort to remove the rubble and toxic leave behinds from the soullessness of fire was pretty amazing in and of itself, the tens of thousands of truck loads buzzing the highways for weeks. The local solutions to disposing or even recycling of these materials showed flexibility and cooperation by people willing to listen to all of us representatives that were receiving their pleas and ideas.

The town of Paradise soon sought to make it habitable again, continuing by extended hazardous tree removal, infrastructure reconstruction, and soon the reopening of the handful of surviving businesses, homes and usable lots. The spirit of the town was lifting. Each new business reopening, each home permit obtained, and new foundation poured increased hope. The vigils held marking particular timelines or efforts had a little more positivity. Driving through and seeing less and less blackened trees but more exposed green ones, less burned out automobiles, and deconstruction depicted the Phoenix’s ascension.

What you see today with so many new homes built, Habitat for Humanity help for the less fortunate, people doing normal things at coffee shops, restaurants, markets and parts stores, parks and crab feed dinners makes us Nor Cal neighbors feel uplifted too. So many people in surrounding cities like Chico, Oroville, Gridley, Corning, Red Bluff, and even Redding who had suffered from a recent devastating fire themselves did so much to help the nearly 30,000 displaced by this wicked act.

We still have much to do with the needed removal of more dead trees and the continued movement of our legislation to remove the taxation of Fire Victim Trust fund awards by the IRS, legislation I strive to bring to a vote on the House Floor forthwith.

Our continued works, our hearts, and our prayers are with the people of Paradise, California, and all the surrounding areas that have battled and are persevering so admirably. God bless the lives lost, their loved ones, and those amazing resilient survivors.

Camp Fire
The 2018 Camp Fire is the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history. Eighty-six people lost their lives, 52,000 people were evacuated, damages cost $16.65 billion and 18,804 structures were destroyed, including 14,343 homes, leaving 3,666,254 tons of debris to be removed. Twenty-one early waring emergency sirens were installed last year with funding assistance from LaMalfa. A total of 3,001 homes have been rebuilt in the town of Paradise, with 978 under construction and 434 homes waiting to break ground, and 9,142 residents have moved back to the town, roughly a third of the town’s population pre-Camp Fire (26,500).