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Paradise Police and Fire Chiefs talk about the future of their departments

The Paradise Police and fire departments are still working to recover. Several officers and firefighters moved away after the Camp Fire.

Posted: Nov 8, 2019 5:20 PM

PARADISE, Calif. - The Paradise Police and fire departments are still working to recover. Several officers and firefighters moved away after the Camp Fire.

Action News Now reporter Laura Eng spoke with the chiefs of both departments about the challenges they face and how they plan to overcome them.

"I was born and raised in Paradise so it wasn't an option to give up," said Paradise Police Chief Eric Reinbold.

One year after the Camp Fire, the road to recovery for the Paradise Police Department has been a long one.

"The year has flown by, but in the same respect, it feels like it's been five years," Chief Reinbold said.

The fire not only changing the landscape of the city but also the professional landscape of Chief Reinbold's police department.

"This event was overwhelming, to say the least, and it definitely took its toll on our folks," Chief Reinbold said.

It’s a sentiment Chief Reinbold understands all too well. Born and raised in Paradise, he, among thousands of others, lost his home in the fire, his family relocating out of town.

"It wasn't a choice to move to Chico or to another community. We were forced to make a decision," Chief Reinbold said.

We spoke with the police chief about some of the challenges he's faced.

"We had 21 sworn police officers prior to the fire. Right now we have 11," Chief Reinbold said.

He said finding housing has been a challenge for many prospective officers.

"It really came down to people that lived close enough to commute or lived in the area to be able to work here," Chief Reinbold said. "In the past, we were a very busy department, call to call, and it was hard to adapt so they went to other local agencies."

He said the fewer calls have led him to reorient what the department can focus on.

"There is a lot more time to be proactive and more community-oriented and go out and connect with the community members and the businesses," Chief Reinbold said. 

We spoke with a Camp Fire survivor, Willy Watson was one of few who didn’t lose their house.

"I think they're doing fine, I think they're patrolling, they're answering calls. I've even been pulled over out of our house to see why I'm here," Watson said. 

With the decrease in population, the Paradise Police Chief says he's not necessarily seeing an increase in crime. Thefts are among the crimes the police chief has been focusing on since the Camp Fire.

"It's been an emotional toll. Last year it's been a long year watching the debris removal the recovery process," said Paradise Fire Chief John Messina.

"You know, one thing that firefighters have is they've got true ownership in their community and it's been a pretty emotional ride for many of them," Chief Messina said. 

Chief Messina said three firefighters transferred out of the department.

"It's been fairly easy to replace them, so it hasn't impacted staffing," said Chief Messina.

The Town of Paradise contracts cal fire to provide fire protection services. Currently, there are 14 in the department. Chief Messina says the call volume has significantly dropped.

Since November 8th, it's slowly increasing, but the population is coming up back in town as people are slowly rebuilding and moving in.

He said it's been a challenge for his firefighters to readjust to the slower change of pace.

"More of a community event attendance and fire code inspections. Their mission has changed since the Camp Fire," Chief Messina said.

"One year later it's a whole new town. We're starting over and it will get better we'll be better. Paradise will be a good place to come to," Barbara Crosley, a Camp Fire survivor. 

"You see all this recovery taking place, new homes being built, you have damaged trees being taken down, infrastructure being approved. It really shows the commitment the community members or residents have to coming back and really enforces why we're here and really enforces the commitment we have to our community to ensure they stay safe and we stand shoulder to shoulder with them as they rebuild," Chief Messina said. 

The police and fire chiefs hope their departments can serve as symbols of strength for the people in their town and they said they hope this will encourage people to come back and rebuild. 

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 914888

Reported Deaths: 17460
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Los Angeles3020777027
Riverside669931303
San Bernardino633671073
Orange589801454
San Diego55210877
Kern33928416
Fresno30969439
Sacramento25601491
Santa Clara24425392
Alameda23471462
San Joaquin21729489
Contra Costa18763242
Stanislaus17714398
Tulare17590288
Ventura14330165
Imperial12967336
San Francisco12189140
Monterey1141990
San Mateo11198159
Santa Barbara9827122
Merced9531155
Sonoma9494136
Kings826483
Solano744576
Marin7096129
Madera503774
Placer420757
San Luis Obispo417432
Yolo321959
Butte309552
Santa Cruz280825
Napa196616
Shasta195431
Sutter186512
San Benito144215
El Dorado13514
Yuba132310
Mendocino113621
Tehama8928
Lassen7661
Lake69816
Glenn6713
Nevada6238
Humboldt56810
Colusa5516
Calaveras34218
Amador33116
Tuolumne2754
Inyo23115
Siskiyou2050
Del Norte1801
Mono1802
Mariposa792
Plumas700
Modoc360
Trinity270
Sierra60
Alpine30
Unassigned00
Chico
Clear
54° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 44°
Feels Like: 54°
Oroville
Clear
50° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 50°
Paradise
Clear
54° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 50°
Feels Like: 54°
Chester
Clear
18° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 18°
Red Bluff
Clear
44° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 42°
Willows
Clear
54° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 43°
Feels Like: 54°
Winds have calmed down but we remain dry. Temperatures will be in the upper-70s to low-80s for the rest of the week. This quiet weather is good for fire danger but unfortunate since no rain is in the forecast.
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