PARADISE (CBS13) — After two years of rebuilding from almost nothing, new life and opportunity are coming back to Paradise.
The scene of California’s deadliest and most destructive wildfire is now breaking records for new construction. Vacant lots with an address to nowhere are still one of Paradise’s biggest challenges, but there’s a lot fewer of them now.
“We’re pushing, trying to get as much supplies here as possible,” said Kevin Phillips, the Paradise Town Manager.
Phillips said around this time last year, Paradise had rebuilt 12 homes. So far this year, that number exploded to more than 400 new homes.
“It’s basically changed how we operate. We’re now a boomtown where before we were kind of a built-out town,” Phillips said.
Phillips said this surge is a mix of people investing in new properties and those brave enough to come home after losing everything.
“The fire burned our house and everything we had, everything we owned,” said Lorelei Plowman.
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But after some hard work and true grit, Lorelei and her husband Ben built back what they could. They rebuilt a house on the same property they lost to the Camp Fire two years ago.
“The start over was very hard, but we did it,” Plowman said. “I’d make a list of groceries and I would think ‘oh my goodness’ I forgot flour, I forgot salt. And it’s just discouraging sometimes.”
She joins a wave of new hope that goes beyond new homes. Two weeks ago, a joyful staple of Paradise reopened.
“You see people leaving with a bag and they’re happy,” said Jody Hartley, the owner of Joylands Candy Shop.
Hartley said the shop is about a third of the size it was before it burned down. But the message rebuilding sends has no limits.
“The more people that start up their businesses here, I think it just gives hope to the next one that wants to,” Hartley said.
Phillips said all of the fire debris has been removed,
“Probably the largest debris removal program in the world,” he said.
Making room for what’s next.
“I’m glad to be back here and go on with life,” Plowman said.