Hang on, help is here

For Butte County, 2018 will forever be remembered as a year marked by disaster. Specifically, the Camp Fire and its aftermath. The 86 people who perished. The nearly 14,000 homes reduced to ashes. The annihilation of businesses, infrastructure and other material things.

Ordinarily, there’s something cathartic about heading into a new year. It’s symbolic of hope for the future, even if such feelings are short-lived. We get that it’s difficult to remain optimistic these days, and we don’t want to offer hollow encouragement. Anyone who reads this newspaper regularly knows we’re truth-tellers, not the purveyors of inspirational verses.

However, we do believe this year will be a time of healing and rebuilding for those who are committed to staying in Butte County. As we flip the calendar to 2019, crossing over a demarcation line that under normal circumstances signals more than the passing of time, we want to highlight a positive step forward.

As Ashiah Scharaga reports this week (see “The road ahead,” page 9), a group has formed to focus on long-term recovery. It’s made up of representatives from dozens of nonprofits and agencies with the goal of aiding those displaced by the fire—in myriad areas of the recovery, including housing.

It’s important to note that many of the participants are local and thus bring a level of empathy and concern that may not be inherent to the state and federal agencies working with the community. Moreover, within its ranks are folks who were directly affected by the fire.

Sadly, in California, long-term recovery efforts aren’t unprecedented. In Sonoma and Napa counties, for example, the 2017 Tubbs Fire prompted the formation of such groups. That means there’s a model that Butte County can learn from and improve upon.

The local group is still in its infancy, but it has the makings of an important safety net for those who lived on the margins prior to the disaster. The bottom line is that there are helpers here who aren’t going to pull out of town—they are dedicated to the recovery.

As a recent drive through Paradise—which was marred by charred remains but uplifted by inspirational signs indicating “we’re in this together”—revealed, no one has to go it alone. That’s true now more than ever.

So, as much as possible, we encourage readers to hold out hope that this new year will bring new beginnings.