CHICO, Calif. – Five months ago the Camp Fire ripped across Paradise, Concow and Magalia. Last July the Carr Fire destroyed some one thousand Redding homes. Life as our region had known it; changed forever.
As we move forward, Action News Now is committed to helping our community. Every Thursday night and Friday morning, our news team will take on the issues we all now face, in a new series, Our Future after the Fire.
Morning Anchor Julia Yarbough explores some of the primary issues set forth in a Chico Chamber of Commerce report which are having short and long-term impacts to the business and residential community.
Scott Brogden is like many in the area who lost everything to the Camp Fire. A professor at Chico State, the fire destroyed his Paradise home, taking with it thousands of dollars of tools, classic rebuilt cars, a full music recording studio, wood and tool shop. Despite the massive loss, Brogden says he is trying to stay positive.
Since the fire, he has been living with his parents in their home and alternating between an adjacent RV. He says finding a new home in Chico is challenging, especially finding something that is financially comparable to what he lost.
The Chico Chamber of Commerce surveyed the local business community a month after the fire to gauge the impacts to the workforce. 76 businesses responded, which represent more than 13-thousand employees. The results were compiled into the Camp Fire Special Report which indicated that short and long-term housing is the primary challenge facing the region. That is followed by public safety, roads and employee pensions.
Jolene Francis, with the Chico Chamber of Commerce, says the local economy is reliant on the ability of businesses to staff properly. She says if businesses are losing workers or are unable to hire employees, the region runs the risk of losing the business to relocation.
Francis also works with Enloe Medical Center and says the facility is concerned about the ability to attract, recruit and retain physicians if those individuals are unable to find suitable housing for themselves and their families.
It is a concern also shared by California Assemblyman James Gallagher, representing District 3. He recently met with those in the local building and contracting industry to discuss options for both private and public solutions to the housing issue. He says he does fear that the region could lose employers if there is not a way to house what he describes as a critical workforce.
Public safety was the next major concern expressed via the survey. For many who are in the Chico area, the region is experiencing an uptick in crime. During a recent Chico City Council Meeting, Police Chief Michael O’Brien revealed pre and post Camp Fire crimes statistics. The Chief says data indicates there is an increase in property crime, traffic accidents and domestic violence as well as a pattern the Chief says concerns him: that in both 2017 and 2018 there was an increase in violent crime.
For the community of Paradise as individuals begin to recover and rebuild moving forward comes with an equal measure of hope and fear.
For Scott Brogden, he says he is not sure that he would return, despite having called Paradise his home for more than 40 years. He says he is worried about the safety of the water and wonders, what will be done to prevent this type of disaster from happening again.