In November 2018 the most destructive wildfire in California history hit my hometown area of Butte County – specifically the town of Paradise and the surrounding communities. I just happened to be in town when it started. Even though we didn’t get an official evacuation notice, I choose to evacuate my parents because the fire was approaching their property quickly. My parents are elderly, and both have physical limitations, so I knew that if we got an official notice, it might be too late for us to get out.
For several days while the fire raged on, we stayed with family friends, Randy & Suzy, in Happy Valley, CA. I’m so grateful for their hospitality! I was able to see Randy and Suzy again this trip. I mentioned that I’d like to see what the fire damage looks like. Randy quickly whisked us up to Paradise, after I picked up my camera, of course.
I didn’t want to be intrusive or appear to be insensitive to anyone ’s horrific misfortune, and I also wanted to capture some of the images to share with those that haven’t been able to see how vast and devastated the whole area is. Until you see something like this in person, you can’t even begin to imagine the scope of it.
I was specifically intrigued by the chimneys that are still standing. As far as the eye could see was one stack after another standing amongst the rubble, ash, and scorched trees. I see the chimneys as a representation of the community. Every chimney has signs of being burned. Some are crumbling, some are leaning, and some are standing as strong as the day it was built. The people of the community are much the same, but one significant difference is that the people of Butte County came together to support each other, lift each other, and they are standing strong together!