Paradise, CA – More than 90 first responders lost their homes to the Camp Fire that raged through Butte County on Thursday.
Paradise Mayor Jody Jones told the Sacramento Bee on Sunday that 17 Paradise police officers’ homes had burned to the ground.
“Every member of the town council lost their home,” Jones said. “If you think about it too much, it can overwhelm you.”
The mayor estimated that 90 percent of Paradise’s houses were gone, the Sacramento Bee reported.
Paradise is a popular community for first responders, and many of the heroes who were fighting the Camp Fire were also victims of the same blaze.
Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said at least 30 sheriff’s deputies had lost their homes in the same fire.
Another eight police officers from Chico returned to find their homes destroyed as well, according to the Sacramento Bee.
Butte College Police Chief Casey Carlson’s home burned to the ground as he worked for 48-hours straight at the command post.
“When we got the evacuation order, I went up to grab a few things, and houses [on the block] were on fire when I was leaving,” Chief Carlson said. “You kind of have to accept it. You know you are helping folks, and that is what matters.”
The chief said the fire helped him realized that possessions were not what mattered.
“I have my kids, the family and the dog. That’s what counts,” he said.
Chief Carlson told the Sacramento Bee that three members of his police department had also lost their homes.
KCRA reported that 53 firefighters had lost their Paradise-area homes in the Camp Fire, but the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) spokesman said they believed that number to be much higher.
“To see the number of them that were out there fighting the fire knowing that their own homes were lost, it’s unbelievable,” IAFF Spokesman Tim Aboudara said.
Aboudara told KCRA about one firefighter who was fighting a blaze only a couple blocks from his own house, and did not know if his fiancé had escaped in time.
“He was just blocks away from his own home, engaged in a fire fight, well aware that his own home was probably on fire,” he said. “He had to stay on mission and keep doing his job.”
IAFF has set up disaster relief center in Chico and has already helped more than a dozen affected families of firefighters whose homes were destroyed, KCRA reported.
The disaster relief centers for firefighters are fairly new, and were initially created in the wake of the Santa Ana wildfires in October of 2017.
“The fire already took their homes, but we don’t want that to cause conflict and things that are going to damage their families, their health or their relationships,” Aboudara said.
He told KCRA that many of the affected first responders won’t even feel the effects of their personal losses for a while to come because they were still battling fires as gusty winds continued.
“They’re really not going to feel this for a couple of weeks,” Aboudara said. “They’re still in action mode. They’re still in response mode.”
Aboudara, a Santa Rosa firefighter, said the centers offer affected firefighters financial assistance, help with filing insurance claims, and emotional support, the Sacramento Bee reported.
“Like so many people in these communities the loss is devastating to our members,” he said.
“And it’s particularly insulting because they have spent so much time fighting fire and protecting homes and to be out on the line and doing their job and not know the status of their family and the status of their home is very difficult. But they never back down,” Aboudara insisted.