British Columbia

California town devastated by wildfire raises funds and offers support for village of Lytton

Two years after it was burned down in a wildfire, the town of Paradise, Calif. has been rebuilt. Now, the community hopes to show support to another village facing a similar tragedy.

The town of Paradise was mostly destroyed by a deadly wildfire in 2018

The town of Paradise, Calif., was mostly destroyed during a deadly wildfire in 2018.

On November 6, 2018, Steve Crowder became a councillor for the town of Paradise, Calif. Two days later, he watched the majority of the town burn to the ground.

Now, two-and-a-half years later, the community continues to rebuild, people are returning home and Crowder is mayor.

After watching the news of the recent devastation of the village of Lytton, B.C., which was ravaged by a wildfire on June 30, Crowder and his community knew they needed to do something.

They began to raise funds.

"It brought back all kinds of memories. I sympathize and my heart breaks for every single person that was affected," said Crowder.

"We got help from across the globe [when Paradise burned], so it's our turn to pay it forward."

Damaged structures and vehicles are seen in Lytton, B.C., on July 9, 2021, after a wildfire destroyed most of the village. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

Two communities destroyed

Paradise, Calif. is a heavily treed, close-knit community of more than 26,000 people.

It was destroyed by the Camp Fire, the deadliest wildfire in California's history, according to CNN.

During the blaze, which covered more than 150,000 hectares, 85 people died.

There were more than 50,000 structures in Paradise. After the fire, only 1,700 were left standing.

'It was absolutely devastating," said Crowder, adding that within five hours, the majority of the town was gone.

"It was a lot of lessons learned and something I don't care to ever experience again."

A firefighter extinguishes a hot spot in a neighbourhood destroyed by the Camp Fire in Paradise, Calif. on Nov. 13, 2018. (Terray Sylvester/Reuters)

The city and many of its residents committed to seeing the city rebuilt.

Today, there are about 1,000 newly built homes, another 2,000 building permits in process and residents are returning.

But it took a lot of work. The town was closed for six weeks, debris removal and clean-up took another nine months, and more than 40,000 trees affected by the fires were removed.

"You drive around town and it's like a total rebirth. People are so happy to be home," Crowder said, offering a word of advice to the community of Lytton.

"There is light at the end of the tunnel, no matter what it seems like now. You will come back better than before."

A statue of a boy stands in the ruins of Paradise, Calif., following the Camp Fire.

Two people were killed and several more were injured when the village of Lytton was engulfed in flames after enduring the hottest temperatures ever recorded in Canada for days on end during B.C.'s recent heat wave.

The plan for the Paradise fundraiser, which is operating through the Paradise Rotary Club, is for the funds to be sent to the Chilliwack Rotary Club, where gift cards can be purchased and donated to the residents of Lytton.

"The town of Paradise stands with them and are willing to help ... whatever they need," Crowder said.

With files from Daybreak Kamloops