Paradise Church of the Brethren before the fire (above) and after the fire (below).
By Russ Matteson
More than six months have passed since the destructive Camp Fire burned through most of the northern California town of Paradise and the surrounding area. The work in the community at recovery efforts and the making of plans for rebuilding the town continue to move forward, but the pace has been slow--in part because of a rainy winter and spring.
Pacific Southwest District has been blessed to be able to pass along funds to seven families who lost their homes and possessions in the fire, thanks to the generosity of Church of the Brethren congregations and individuals. More than $103,000 was donated to support those Brethren affected by the Camp Fire and this has been distributed to those in need. About 80 congregations and 80 individuals sent funds in support. The funds have been used to replace belongings, from something as simple as a pair of scissors to purchasing clothes and furniture that were needed to start again.
Waiting and filing paperwork
For the few Brethren and the church property, things to do right now are waiting and filing paperwork. Individual Brethren have been going through what is left of their homes to see what memory items may be salvaged. Crews are busy clearing trees that have been burned but not fallen, and cutting trees that are deemed to be too near to power lines.
The first step in clean up was a hazardous material inspection and removal performed by county crews, which has been completed. Property owners, including the church property, now wait for the next phase of debris removal by crews. Following that work, owners will be responsible for the removal of retaining walls, foundations, and other structural pieces that remain.
Plans to rebuild the community are being worked on, but much work is needed on improving roadways and exit routes, determining how utilities will be upgraded and replaced, and putting in place plan reviews that include the California Wildlife-Urban Interface requirements for all of the reconstruction.
Many homeowners are still waiting on settlements with their insurance companies. Those receiving support from the church have been most grateful for the generous response of sisters and brothers in Christ who do not know them but shared love through their relief support.
-- Russ Matteson is executive minister of the Church of the Brethren’s Pacific Southwest District.