We all heard about and saw the devastation of the 2018 Camp Fire in Paradise, California. But when the media moved on and it was no longer a front page story, the residents of Paradise were still there trying to rebuild their homes and community. In November, Fire Safe Marin team members were welcomed to Paradise, California by community members affected by the Camp Fire. In our fourth episode of Wildfire Watch we share “Lessons from Paradise,” the hard lessons learned by the ridge residents and their deep commitment to rebuilding. We heard stories of tremendous loss, but also of hope, stewardship, resilience, and action. Our team was deeply moved, and agreed that being in a community that has experienced wildfire is much different than just seeing a news headline or video clip on social media.
The people we talked to urged Marin residents to prepare now so you don’t have to rebuild your homes or community later. Paradise resident Carrie Max encouraged us to “Just do it, take care of yourself, take care of your home.” It is so easy to feel like we don’t have the time or the money to get prepared, but we were reminded of the cost if we don’t.
During our time in Paradise, we met with Allen Myers, the executive director of Regenerating Paradise, a nonprofit organization formed in the wake of the Camp Fire with a mission “to weave the social fabric that regenerates us.” “We define ‘regenerating’ as a process of rebuilding and recovery that, as in regenerative agriculture, replenishes rather than depletes. We look to the residents of The Ridge, our community, for our resources, with the intention “to co-create and cultivate communities that make use of our abundant gifts and that work for all life.” Our conversations with Allen remind us of the resilience and hope that a community can have after great loss and inspire us to continue to build relationships within Marin. We are so grateful to the residents that invited us into their community to share their stories.
A heartfelt thanks to Regenerating Paradise and the following Paradise community members for their time and generosity in sharing their moving stories with us, and the inspiring message of resiliency in the face of disaster.
Allen Myers. Filmmaker, community organizer and executive eirector of Regenerating Paradise. Third generation member of Paradise. Lost his family home. “The greatest insurance policy that a community has is itself, neighbors and family members… Having a strong social fabric is going to be key in the resiliency of a community facing disaster.”
Kerri Warmack. Paradise resident. Home survived the Camp Fire. Credits defensible space for saving her home. “Have a lot of breaks in your yards so you can be defensive in that way…”
David Zink. Butte County native. Board chair of Regenerating Paradise. When David was evacuated, he told his neighbors, did prep work while evacuating, and grabbed things without a plan. “Evacuation is not the time to do fire preparation…prepare for the worst case scenario and work together.”
David Thorp. Business advocate for the Paradise Ridge Chamber of Commerce. Currently working with businesses to develop emergency plans. “There is a pacifist belief that we are protected. You need to plan for situations when Cal Fire, etc is not available.”
Jennifer Petersen. Third generation Paradise resident. Lost her family home and is committed to staying in Paradise. Living in trailer on her property while rebuilding using fire resistant materials “There were so many things that I would have done differently.”
Carrie Max. Paradise resident. Living in a trailer on her property and is unable to rebuild anytime soon. “We are looking through things with a different lens now …honor what you have because it can disappear like that.”
To learn more about Regenerating Paradise, visit www.regeneratingparadise.org.