PARADISE, Calif: Thousands of Paradise residents who fled a monster blaze a month ago were allowed on Wednesday to return to some neighborhoods in the Northern California city nearly obliterated by one of the deadliest wildfires in U.S. history.
Tim Moniz, a rice farmer, and welder in his 50s, “It seems unfair that some houses make it and yours don’t,” Moniz said. “I just had to get back up and see it and try to salvage something.”
Authorities hurriedly evacuated some 50,000 people in Paradise and neighboring towns when the Camp Fire erupted on Nov. 8. The fire killed at least 85 people with nearly a dozen still unaccounted for. It also destroyed nearly 14,000 homes in the wooded, foothill communities.
Evacuation orders were previously lifted in areas outside Paradise, but Wednesday marked the first day officials opened parts of the city itself in the midst of the fire’s scorched wasteland of 153,000 acres (61,900 hectares).
Paradise Mayor Jody Jones said by telephone, But the fire’s devastation will reshape the town and - at least initially lower its population.
“All my friends who are in their 80s, they’re just not going to go through this process of rebuilding,” Jones said, adding she believes three-quarters of Paradise residents will rebuild.
Authorities said they will let some residents stay overnight on their properties, but advise against it because electricity, gas and other services were not available.
Paradise’s skyline is dotted with 30 large cranes that crews are using to remove debris, said city spokesman Matt Gates.