A fire-devastated town offers lessons and love to Lahaina: ‘We understand that hurt’
PARADISE, CALIF. (HawaiiNewsNow) - The remnants of the wildfire that destroyed this small Northern California are still easy to spot. Burned tree stumps, abandoned blackened lawn ornaments, empty lots — all grim reminders of the fiery destruction that took place here.
But it’s also easy to see the re-birth of the town underway.
Trees have begun to grow and most importantly, residents have returned.
It’s been nearly five years since the Camp Fire destroyed the town of Paradise.
These days, the road to recovery is very clear — homes are being rebuilt, businesses are reopened and the major highway into this area is up and running.
“It takes time, it takes time for that to happen, there’s a lot of clean up to do,” said Paradise Mayor Greg Bolin. “There’s all that stuff, the clean-up stages, all that to get your slate clean again.”
LESSONS FROM PARADISE: As part of this special series, HNN’s Jonathan Masaki traveled to Paradise, Calif. to look at how they’re still recovering from a catastrophic fire five years ago.
Recovery hasn’t been easy.
There were many days and nights of despair, frustration and hopelessness, Bolin said. As time marched on, however, residents began to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
“Eventually, they start coming around and we start working together, we start becoming a team to make this thing, come back.and make it a home again,” he said.
Also in this series:
“There is light again, there is hope again,” added Colette Curtis, Paradise’s director of development. She knew from the get-go she would have to chart a course that would lead Paradise to recovery.
Josh Gallagher, the pastor at the Paradise Alliance Church, tried to do the same thing.
He said his first instinct in the wake of the disaster was to open up his church. “I realized early on, the one area that we can help in this community rebuild is to create space for the community.for the people who believed like us and for the people who didn’t believe like us,” Gallagher said.
As Paradise continues to recover and heal, the focus in the community has shifted to Maui.
They know first-hand what it is like to lose everything — and what it takes to find a way out of darkness and despair.
“We understand that hurt,” Bolin said.
His first piece of advice: Take time to grieve.
“Everyone is going to feel differently about this disaster and I think that you have to feel what you are feeling, you really have to sit with that and feel it,” said Curtis.
Gallagher agreed. “In this moment, make sure you are caring for yourself, caring for your families and be looking out for your flock,” he said.
The road ahead will not be easy, he added, But it will get better.
“There will come a day when you start you start putting the pieces back together,” Gallagher said.
“There will come that time and that joy will come back. Right now, you have lost that joy, you have lost everything but there is that day that it will come back.”
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