These California towns were destroyed by wildfires

Wildfires in California are notorious for ravaging cities, burning thousands of acres and destroying properties and homes, and claiming lives.

Sometimes forcing residents to rebuild their community from the ashes.

Find out how recent fires have devastated these California cities:

Greenville and the Dixie Fire

The Dixie Fire began in July 2021, burning over 960,000 acres in Butte, Plumas, Shasta, Lassen and Tehama counties for over three months.

According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, 95 structures were damaged and more than 1,000 structures were destroyed, most of them clustered in the town of Greenville, about 150 miles northeast of Sacramento. One person died in the fire.

Greenville, “a small town with a ton of soul,” is home to the largest Indian Valley community with about 1,000 people, according to the Plumas County website. It’s a city of history with buildings that date back to the mid-1800s and businesses that bear artifacts from the gold rush era.

The fire obliterated most of Greenville and its historic buildings in 2021, including Village Drug Co. in downtown Greenville, the oldest building in the community, built in 1860.

“The city has completely disappeared. The town was devastated and leveled,” Eva Gorman, owner of a store called Josefina Fine Knits, told The Bee weeks after the fire. “There is nothing left, almost nothing left of the city.”

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Rubble remains Friday, Dec. 3, 2021, of a downtown business destroyed by the Dixie Fire in Greenville last summer. The fire destroyed most of the small town in Plumas County. Paul Kitagaki Jr. [email protected]

Hotels, shops, a post office and a mail truck, Greenville’s First Lutheran Church – all turned to rubble from the Dixie Fire, The Bee reported in August, more than two months before the fire is completely under control.

This is not the first time that the flames have devastated Greenville. In 1881, most of the town’s buildings were destroyed by fire, according to the Indian Valley Chamber of Commerce. It was quickly rebuilt the following year.

Greenville is still rebuilding its town after the last devastating fire.

“[T]he community is in a time of transition and rebirth,” according to the county’s website.

The California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services reported in April 2022 that the process of repairing, rebuilding and relocating people to the community was still ongoing. By April, more than 96,000 tons of debris had been removed, but other protocols, such as soil testing, erosion control and tree felling, continued.

Temporary housing has been set up in trailers for displaced families and portable classrooms have been secured in Taylorsville for students to resume in-person instruction.

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A sign reading “Greenville Strong!” is seen in downtown Greenville on Thursday, July 28, 2022, a year after the Dixie Fire devastated the community. Hector Amezcua [email protected]

Berry Creek and Bear’s Fire

In September 2020, the Bear Fire leveled the small rural-suburban town of Berry Creek, with a population of around 1200 people.

Located north of Lake Oroville in Butte County, Berry Creek is known for its Bald Rock views, nature trails and local businesses. On its city webpage is a dedicated listing of storefronts and home markets — plumbing repair, organic farm produce, nutritional drinks, and second-hand sales — with direct contact with owners, by first name.

But most businesses were probably consumed by the ferocity of the Bear Fire. Fueled by 45mph winds, The Bee reported in September 2020, the blaze destroyed all homes in its path and set Berry Creek Elementary School on fire. It also took over Village Market, the city’s only grocery and gas station, Cal EOS said.

Burnt vehicles, downed power lines, ash and smoldering logs were all that remained of the foothills community, The Bee wrote.

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Devastation is seen at Berry Creek Elementary School in Berry Creek on September 9, 2020, after it was destroyed by the Bear Fire. Since last year, a state team has been assisting school officials with a variety of issues, including communicating with state and federal agencies in the event of an emergency and connecting them with needed resources. Jason Pierce Bee File

The Bear Fire was eventually renamed North Complex Fire, a combination of three lightning-triggered fires including the Claremont, Sheep, and Bear Fire. In total, the North Complex Fire engulfed more than 318,000 acres, killed 16 people and destroyed more than 2,000 structures, according to the Incident Information System.

Cal EOS reported in July 2021 that Berry Creek was hardest hit during the fire, with 12 Berry Creek residents dead and 1,238 structures destroyed.

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A home on Sugar Pine Drive in Berry Creek was set on fire during the Bear Fire near Oroville on Wednesday, September 9, 2020. The fire, which is part of the largest northern complex fire in Northern California, exploded Tuesday night and Wednesday, forcing evacuation warnings and orders for at least 20,000 people in Butte County and reportedly inflicting extensive damage to the Berry Creek foothills community. Jason Pierce [email protected]

The city is still recovering. According to Cal EOS, progress has been made in reviving Berry Creek’s Village Market lifeline.

“Cal OES was able to preserve the gas station during debris removal, great news for Berry Creek since the nearest gas station is approximately 30 to 45 minutes away,” the agency said in its report.

While the site still has to undergo further tests and inspections to be rebuilt, a new market has been opened to residents. News Action Now reported that the Gold City Market opened in Oroville in February 2022.

Berry Creek United, a non-profit organization, was started by four residents weeks after the fire destroyed the town. It aims to rebuild the community and provide essential goods to displaced people.

Paradise and the Campfire

The town of Paradise in Butte County, 90 miles north of Sacramento, is also on the road to recovery after being flattened by Camp Fire in 2018.

Paradise, known for its tall pines and oaks, was a destination for gold diggers in the mid-1800s and served as a trading post, according to the town’s website. As the legend indicates, the town takes its name from William Leonard, a mill owner, who after a hot summer day delivering wood to the valley, told his team after settling in the shadow of the ponderosa pines: “boys, it’s paradise.”

Now many of those trees are being removed as part of the city’s long-term recovery plan.

The campfire burned more than 150,000 acres in Butte County in November 2018, destroying more than 18,000 structures, killing 85 residents and firefighters and injuring three during the 17 days it was active. According to the city’s website, 90% of the buildings in Paradise were destroyed by the fire.

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Hector Amezcua Sacramento Bee File

Living rooms, Colyer Veterinary, stores, the city’s iconic trees – all reduced to ashes, The Bee reported in June 2019 as some residents returned to see remnants of their community.

“It would be nice to go on vacation for about five years and come back and see how it goes,” resident Stewart Nugent told The Bee as he cleaned up his yard which was destroyed after a workman cut a burnt tree and accidentally fell. above. “See what they have. See if they’ve reopened the Jack In The Box.

Some rebuilding in paradise has been done. According to a report by KTVU in June 2022, 1,400 houses have been rebuilt in Paradise.

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Campfire survivor Skeeter Schuette walks with her dog Ethel on her property in Paradise on Wednesday, March 9, 2022. Renée C. Byer [email protected]

The city is the subject of a long-term reconstruction plan, which includes three phases: recovery, reconstruction and prosperity. Stage one is about clearing debris and dead trees, stage two is focused on economic development and returning homes to residents, and stage three is about helping residents thrive in their community.

Projects included in the plan create a walkable downtown and assess roads.

Rebuild Paradise Foundation, a grassroots movement led by Camp Fire survivors and community leaders, has also been formed to provide resources, help repopulate fire-affected areas and return residents to their homes.

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This story was originally published August 3, 2022 5:00 a.m.

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Hanh Truong is a service desk reporter for The Sacramento Bee. She was previously a freelance journalist, covering education and culture for PBS SoCal and music for buzzbands.la.

Bernard P. Love