Res­i­dents re­turn home

Fam­i­lies gain ac­cess to Par­adise, but many must wait to move back

The Dallas Morning News - - Nation&world - Don Thomp­son,

PAR­ADISE, Calif. — Some res­i­dents of a North­ern Cal­i­for­nia town dev­as­tated by a cat­a­strophic wild­fire nearly a month ago were fi­nally al­lowed to re­turn home Wed­nes­day to sift through the charred re­mains in search of pre­cious fam­ily heir­looms, pho­tos and other pos­ses­sions that may have sur­vived.

A long line of cars waited in a cold driz­zle at a check­point on their way to neigh­bor­hoods on the east side of Par­adise, where evac­u­a­tion or­ders have been lifted.

Be­yond the check­point, crews in yel­low slick­ers were still clear­ing de­bris from burned homes and re­mov­ing trees from streets lit­tered with melted plas­tic trash cans and hol­lowed ve­hi­cles sit­ting on tire­less rims.

Be­fore head­ing to their home, Joyce Mclean, 73, and her hus­band, Jerry Mclean, stopped at a store to buy paper tow­els and plas­tic bags.

“We didn’t own ex­pen­sive things, but we had a lot of mem­ory things,” she said, re­call­ing Christ­mas or­na­ments made by her son when he was a child and me­men­tos from her Cana­dian hus­band’s great­grand­mother. “If I can find a lit­tle piece of his fam­ily or just a lit­tle piece of my son, I would be happy.”

Ac­cess to the neigh­bor­hoods was lim­ited to res­i­dents on Wed­nes­day, but they will be open to any­one on Thurs­day.

More than 50,000 peo­ple in Par­adise and two neigh­bor­ing com­mu­ni­ties were forced to flee the wind­driven fire that started Nov. 8, killing at least 85 peo­ple, destroying about 14,000 homes and black­en­ing 240 square miles.

Au­thor­i­ties said 10 peo­ple were still un­ac­counted for in what was the dead­li­est U.S. wild­fire in at least a cen­tury.

Mclean said she has seen pho­tos on so­cial me­dia of her de­stroyed home and knows one of the only things that sur­vived was an Amer­i­can flag fly­ing on a pole.

“We lost ev­ery­thing but the clothes on our backs,” she said about their dash for safety.

The com­mu­ni­ties will have very lim­ited ser­vices for the im­me­di­ate fu­ture, and au­thor­i­ties urged res­i­dents to bring food, wa­ter and fuel for ve­hi­cles.

Res­i­dents were also warned they should not move back into homes un­til ash and haz­ardous waste have been cleared. They were also told that rain could in­crease the risk of flash floods and mud­slides.

Ma­son Trinca/the Wash­ing­ton Post

Ja­son Rus­sell searched through the re­mains of his home for his wife’s wed­ding ring. Evac­u­a­tion or­ders have been lifted for a small por­tion of ar­eas af­fected by the Camp Fire, though the ma­jor­ity of Par­adise res­i­dents will still wait to re­turn to their homes.

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