- Paradise, California, a town of 27,000, was destroyed by the Camp Fire last week.
- Resident Kelsey Wray-Guenza said she fears a fire could come to Paradise again, and says it’s not worth returning.
- Laurel Merz, who lived in Paradise for two-and-a-half years, said returning to the town wouldn’t be practical when she has to get her kids back in school.
As residents of Paradise, California, cope with their town being leveled by the devastating Camp Fire, some say they won’t return to the city.
The fire has killed 42 people in Northern California, making it the deadliest in state history. Hundreds more people are still missing.
So far, the fire has burned 125,000 acres and was just 30% contained as of Tuesday morning.
Residents were forced to flee Paradise, a town of 27,000, last Thursday in a mass exodus and they’re still coping with the fact that their city is gone.
Moving back isn’t worth the risk
Kelsey Wray-Guenza, who lived in Paradise with her husband and two-year-old daughter, says moving back to the town would be too much of a risk.
She wants to return for closure and to see what happened to their home, but she thinks her family will move permanently elsewhere.
“Knowing something like this can happen, and so quickly, I wouldn’t feel safe,” she told INSIDER over Facebook.
Wray-Guenza’s family had lived in Paradise for five years.
She believes the family’s pet pug died in the fire; Wray-Guenza said she wasn’t able to return home to save the dog when she was given evacuation orders.
“I don’t know what’s next for us, it’s very painful to think about everything we lost,” Wray Guenza said. “Our home burned to the ground in the videos we’ve seen and everything we own and worked hard for is gone, including our pug, who was our baby.”
Children have to get back to school while displaced
For Paradise resident Laurel Merz, returning to the town is a question of practicality. Merz’s main concern is getting her children back in school.
“We don’t intend to leave this community. But we also have an obligation to our children to settle them and get them in school and start over,” she told INSIDER over Facebook. “That isn’t possible in Paradise for us right now. We’ll likely settle and stay in Chico, should we find housing.”
Merz and her family moved to Paradise from Oregon two-and-a-half years ago when her husband got a job at Butte College.
They chose to settle down in Paradise because of its small-town feel and the kindness of the people who lived there.
“Nearly every one of my friends in Paradise lost their home,” Merz said. “[We’re] focused on what we have: Finding humour, getting closer as a family, and receiving so much love.”
Since the Camp Fire started last Thursday, it has burned square miles (505 square kilometers) and destroyed more than 6,400 homes in Northern California, according to The Associated Press.
Five days after the fire leveled Paradise, officials are still unsure of the number of people missing, but the death toll is expected to rise.
Authorities plan to bring two mobile morgue units to the town and are requesting a team of 150 search and rescue personnel.
“I want to recover as many remains as we possibly can, as soon as we can. Because I know the toll it takes on loved ones,” Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea told The Associated Press.