Viewpoints

Many Camp Fire survivors are determined to rebuild Paradise. And so they should

It’s been 6 months since Paradise burned. Our drone video shows how it’s changed

The Camp Fire burned down thousands of buildings and killed 85 people in Paradise six months ago. How drone footage from days after the fire compares to what the city looks like in early May, 2019, as workers continue to cleanup the city.
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The Camp Fire burned down thousands of buildings and killed 85 people in Paradise six months ago. How drone footage from days after the fire compares to what the city looks like in early May, 2019, as workers continue to cleanup the city.

When the Camp Fire ravaged through Concow, Paradise and Magalia in November of 2018, destroying nearly 19,000 structures and killing 85 people, the entire state came together to help us heal and recover.

With the extraordinary circumstances that caused the most devastating fire in state history, we also experienced extraordinary support from people around the globe who understand the value of human compassion. California made a commitment to help us rebuild in the devastating aftermath.

Now, six months out from the most destructive fire in a California history, most Californians have moved on with their lives. Camp Fire survivors, however, are still stuck in a state of waiting – waiting for their lots to be cleared, waiting to once again have access to clean water, waiting for available housing. Many face a new normal of uncertainty and instability.

Opinion

The damage of the wildfire is evident the second you enter the burn scar area. It will be several years until we see the devastated communities return to some sense of normalcy. In the meantime, however, we as a state have made a commitment to support Butte County through the recovery effort. Assembly Bill 72, passed in February of this year, provides Butte County with three years of backfill for property tax revenue losses. There are also efforts to help expedite needed housing in the region and fund infrastructure like water and sewer.

But a recent Sacramento Bee article suggested that maybe it is not the state’s responsibility to backfill funding and reimburse these communities impacted by disaster. It reveals undercurrent of an attitude that says it is not wise to rebuild Paradise or to build at all in rural parts of California. I couldn’t disagree more.

James Gallagher
Assemblyman James Gallagher Marc Thomas Kallweit

Would we deny funding to San Francisco or Los Angeles after a massive earthquake? Would we withhold much needed funds for Sacramento after a levee breach? The answer is, and will always be, no. Disaster risk is not unique to rural or wooded areas. So rather than looking at where we should and should not rebuild, we need to focus on building smarter, improving our infrastructure and mitigating risk.



California is the center of the greatest housing shortage in the nation – a shortage that increased by nearly 20,000 in November. There is risk everywhere – the valley has floods, the coast has earthquakes and the uplands have fires. We will never meet our housing needs if we begin to write off whole regions because of the potential for disaster. Instead we need to plan, retrofit and improve our infrastructure to better mitigate the risk of these threats.

Paradise and the surrounding communities want to rebuild and I support their efforts to do so. Funding from the state is an investment to make our communities stronger, safer and more resilient. Even now citizens are making those plans, meeting in a Paradise church to plan housing that will be built to higher standards, with defensible space and fire breaks. A town with wider, safer streets and protected by increasing responsible forestry management.

We are determined to persevere. When faced with destruction, we can and will come back stronger than before. We did it in Northridge, we did it San Francisco and we will do it in Paradise.

State Assemblyman James Gallagher represents California’s 3rd Assembly District.

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