PARADISE, Calif. (KRON) – It’s been more than a year since the deadly Camp Fire that nearly wiped out the entire town of Paradise.
The aftermath of the fire, which destroyed more than 18,000 homes and structures, left thousands homeless and many still in the rebuilding process.
Many people moved out of Paradise, and those who stayed are still trying to recover.
“This was the garage here and then our bedroom was here in the corner, the grandparents there,” Jacob Jones, who lost almost everything in the wildfire, said.
It was around 6:30 in the morning on Nov. 8, 2018, when the Camp Fire tore through Paradise, virtually wiping out the town.
Eighty-five people lost their lives, and that number is expected to rise from those suffering from medical complications resulting from the devastating wildfire.
Block after block of the town was reduced to rubble.
“People are still living in tents, people are living in cars and there’s still people in shelters after the fire,” Jones said. “Dirt lot now and that’s kind of what the whole town is.”
Days after the fire ignited, Jones escaped from Paradise and has been staying with his family in Milpitas. Before that, he saved his neighbor, her two children, and pets in his two-seater car.
“There was no way I was going to leave them, I did just what anybody else would have done,” Jones said.
Jonna Rodriguez, who lived across the street from Jones, credits him for saving her life.
“The sky turned black and before I knew it, Jacob rushed over and told us it was time to go no matter what,” Rodriguez said. “Looking back it could have been worse. We could have been stuck without Jake’s help. I could have been running for my life if he wasn’t there to help us.”
Rodriguez is seeing the site of her home for the first time in almost a year.
“I have not been wanting to come up here,” Rodriguez said. “Trying to picture it like it was and seeing it how it is now is difficult. Trying to remember where things were and how it looked in your head and it does not look the same at all.”
Today, Rodriguez lives 45 minutes away from Paradise with the help of FEMA and wildfire assistance, but Jones is still trying to get back on his feet.
The home he lived in belonged to his grandparents, who received money from FEMA. His grandparents are now living in a trailer in another town. Jones did not receive any aid from FEMA or Red Cross because he was not the homeowner. He’s a mechanic and a construction worker but still can’t find full-time work.
“Since the fire, it’s definitely been hard. All the jobs were gone, all the contractors that came up here to go to work brought out of town crews. Nobody really hired locals, it’s been odd jobs here and there,” Jones said.
The fire burned for 17 days, we were there in the aftermath.
On Wednesday, Jones says Paradise is slowly rebuilding.
“We got two gas stations and a couple stores now and it seems like it’s a ghost town after 6 o’clock,” Jones said.
“It’s easier to move forward than to dwell a little bit but I’m also not up here every day like they are and seeing it every day and I don’t think I can handle the anxiety of doing that,” Rodriguez said.
Jones says there’s still hope but a long road ahead and he refuses to leave.
“My newborn daughter will have everything she needs and she’ll get to grow up in the new Paradise whatever pops up here because this is where we’re going to be,” Jones said.
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