Our Future After the Fire: Reopened businesses fight to bring life back to the ridge

Action News Now's Hayley Watts looks into the challenges and realities for businesses that chose to reopen in Paradise after the Camp Fire.

Posted: Apr 26, 2019 10:25 AM

BUTTE COUNTY, Calif. - "Paradise had my heart from the very beginning," said Christine Burton, owner of Positive I Dance & Circus.

Burton brought Positive I Dance & Circus to the ridge in 2013.

The Camp Fire torched some 19,000 structures but left her business standing.

Once the smoke cleared, Burton had a choice to make.

"We thought about leaving," she said. "I support everybody who did what's right for their family; what's right for me and my family is to stay here and help rebuild." 

Burton downsized the studio from a larger warehouse to a much smaller space she owns on Skyway.

There's just not enough people living on the ridge to fill the classes she once offered.

But students still show up, many coming from as far as Rocklin to show support and to heal.

"With fire comes new growth," said Talley, a client and friend from Magalia. "It cleanses and you have new starts, new seeds, and we're here to water them." 

Burton said her business and help people through the healing process. 

"What's beautiful about this practice is that it allows you to really let go of all that no longer serves you - it's definitely an emotional, freeing experience," Burton said. 

Positive I is just one of many businesses to reopen after the fire.

Lyon's Express Lube and oil was the first to open in January, and now, about 150 businesses are back up and running.

But a lot of the customers are from out of town, or temporary.

"We have a lot of workers rebuilding the town so that's keeping the food trucks packed, the grocery stores have lines - it's surprising to see the life in all the stores," Burton said. 

About 300 customers visit the Holiday Market each day. Sales are down by half since before the fire.

They don't always make enough to cover the daily cost of running the business and for now, they said that's ok.

"There's never a concern of us closing," said Store Leader Lisa Chilton. "We're just rolling with the punches so it's a struggle for us sales-wise but we're going to keep on being here for the community." 

Business owners just seem to accept the risk of money being tight for a while.

Jennifer White recalls getting the news that her beloved White Water Saloon burned to rubble.

"For a second I thought about reopening in Chico, but it was just for a second because home is Paradise," White said. "After getting past believing that it was gone, I was already planning where we were going, what we were doing, because it's not just a bar, it is home for a lot of people." 

There's no set plan for running water in Paradise. There's no telling how many people will even move back. To reinvest is a risk.

"Creating light on the ridge, creating an idea for our family and our kids to not give up on our dreams. You think moving out of town is going to give you opportunity, but I see so much opportunity here in Paradise," Burton said. 

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