There are hundreds of cities in California in which to live. Though the heaviest concentration of the population is in cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego, there are more than a few towns that fly under the radar. Paradise, CA is one such city. Prior to 2018, it was a burgeoning little town tucked away in the northeastern Sacramento Valley. It has since been devasted by wildfire not once, but twice. The town of Paradise is in a rebuilding effort that is ongoing to this day.
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Paradise has a History of Wildfires
It is important that we first talk about the history of Paradise, CA. Wildfire is one of the biggest dangers facing California residents. In recent years, massive wildfires have spread and caused major devastation to various areas of the state.
Paradise has faced wildfire on more than a few occasions in its history. They faced a wildfire in 2008, known as the Humboldt Fire, that left 9,300 people forced from their homes. The fire raged over 22,800 acres of land between both Paradise and Chico, CA.
A month later, another fire burned at the northern side of Paradise. Thousands were again evacuated, though the fires did not cross the Feather River. Still, the result was two major fires inside of two months and just as many major evacuations.
Camp Fire in 2018
As bad as those two wildfires were, they were nothing compared to the wildfire that raged across the area in late 2018. Known as the Camp Fire, the eastern quarter of Paradise was evacuated with the rest following suit an hour later.
That same day, much of Magalia, Concow, and Paradise were devastated by the fire. Homes across both the north and south sides were laid to waste. The town center burned completely to the ground.
The totals were absolutely devastating. Tens of thousands were displaced from their homes with 86 losing their lives. In all, nearly 19,000 buildings were completely destroyed, leaving just 5% of the buildings in the town without some form of serious fire damage.
Camp Fire was the most destructive and deadliest fire in the history of California, leaving Paradise with the prospect of rebuilding.
More Fire in 2020
Unfortunately for residents of Paradise, CA, the wildfire troubles were not over. In the middle of rebuilding their old town, the North Complex Fire – also known as the “Bear Fire”, burned in Pulga, endangering not only Paradise but the same surrounding communities that had been impacted by Camp Fire.
Though the fire was nowhere near as devastating as the previous wildfire, it did rage across 320,00 acres before ultimate being quelched. More evacuations occurred and more damage was done to a town that had yet to fully recover from 2018.
Paradise Greenbelt Buffer Plan
It was quite evident in the wake of the major fires of 2018 that something had to be done. So the Parks and Recreation Department, along with the Nature Conservancy, teamed to develop the Greenbelt Buffer plan. Ultimately the goal was to better prepare the town for the event of future wildfires.
The idea was to allow firefighters to do controlled burns to cut off the path of the wildfires. It would be a buffer that would protect the town from any potential wildfires that may come from the surrounding areas.
The five main goals of the plan were to make the town Welcoming, Safer, Stronger, Greener, and Better. That meant improvements to walking paths and parks, a better fuel management plan, and better access to transportation for both residents and firefighters.
A Resilient Town
If there is one thing to be said about what kind of place Paradise, CA is to live, it is that the town is resilient. Facing several deadly wildfires is enough to drive anyone from town. But that did not happen for Paradise residents.
A year after the fires devastated the town, they came together behind the undefeated Paradise High School football team. Given that it was one of the few events happening in the wake of the rebuild, it became everything to the town.
What About Today?
There are some residents of neighboring towns that consider the town of Paradise, CA to be no more. The population was majorly impacted, with thousands losing their homes to the fire. Some have opted not to return in the wake of the severe wildfires.
The town continues to rebuild and move forward. That begs the question about what the housing market, population, attractions, and more in Paradise look like.
Cost of Living
The median family income for Paradise, CA is just under $64,000 which puts it just below the national average of $68,000. That in itself is troubling but when coupled with the fact that the cost of living in Paradise is over 6% more than the national average, it makes living a bit tougher for Paradise.
The housing market has also been completely changed due to the number of homes that have burned down. Though families are rebuilding, the market is not close to what it once was in 2018.
That said, it is still far more affordable than the median home price in California, which as of 2020 was almost $800,000. With the average home costing about $273,000, finding a home in Paradise is much more feasible than in other areas of the state.
A Rise in Employment
While it may seem like all bad news for Paradise, CA, it is important to keep in mind that having most of the buildings burnt down would hurt any town or city. It is also no surprise that the Paradise job market has been hit hard, too.
The area depended heavily on the forest-products industry. Wildfires across the state have hurt that industry, but perhaps no more than Paradise. The good news is that there is a slow turnaround happening in Paradise.
The national average for unemployment is 3.7%. Paradise comes in at just under the national average at 3.4%. The good news is that jobs in Paradise have increased by 2.1% since the fires, showing a little growth in the rebuilding effort.
A Small, Tight Population
One of the trademarks of Paradise, particularly in the wake of the wildfires, has been a closeness of community. The population is barely over 26,000 and has experienced just 0.1% growth since 2010. Simply put the population is what it is and sees little influx of newbies. Those numbers are also somewhat inaccurate as the estimated number of residents after the fire was estimated to be about 4,000.
For those who value a smaller community, that can make a place like Paradise ideal. Getting to know neighbors can be valuable in itself. Moreover, those neighbors have stood behind one another when needed the most.
Prior to the Fires
Before the wildfires, Paradise, CA was considered as one of the best-kept secrets in Northern California. The cost of living, especially when compared to other major cities, was much more reasonable. Groceries, housing prices, gas, and property taxes were noticeably lower.
A quiet town, Paradise was also considered to be one of the safest in northern California as well. Crime was little to no issue and residents remarked how safe the area felt. Of California’s hidden gems, Paradise was certainly high up on the list.
Fitting into Chico, CA
Due to 95% of the town’s buildings being burned down, there are some questions about whether or not Paradise really even exists anymore. Some consider it to now be a part of nearby Chico, CA, a mere 15 miles away.
Chico is along the Sacramento River valley, about 90 or so miles to the north of Sacramento. It is anchored by its agricultural-processing center, which is known for rice, almonds, and fruit.
Chico is considered to be a nice place to live, with warm and friendly residents, an attractive town, and a vibrant nightlife. Former residents of Paradise have since relocated to Chico and other surrounding areas after losing their homes to the wildfire.
The Rebuild Efforts
Despite the fact that employment rates are on the rise, the road to rebuilding is going to be a long one for Paradise. With so many having lost everything to the fires, former residents did not hesitate to pick up and leave.
What is in the future for Paradise? Time will tell. Its status as one of the best-kept secrets is gone and the threat of wildfire remains a constant issue. Getting people to come back will be the primary concern for city officials.
Is Paradise, CA a Good Place to Live?
For the time being, there is not much left to Paradise, CA. It was a nice little community prior to the 2018 fires that nearly leveled the entire town. Since then, even through the 2020 North Complex Fire, it has been a constant battle for residents.
Paradise has become a tight-knit community. Brought together by the devastation of the 2018 fire, the community has rallied together in support of one another. While that close-knit community is great, it is in the wake of major tragedy and devastation.
Given the rebuilding state of the town, coupled with the constant threat of major wildfires, Paradise may not be the best of choices within California. It remains to be seen if the town can rebuild to pre-2018 levels.
Much of the population has yet to return. Given the proclivity of wildfires in the area, it should not be much of a wonder why that is. Prior to the fire, Paradise was known for its below-average cost of living and low crime levels. Now, it is perhaps known for the wildfires that raged through.
If for nothing else the threat of wildfire should be enough to deter those looking to move from choosing Paradise as a destination.