Chico needs a lifeline

In this week’s cover package, we assess the impacts of the Camp Fire on the city of Chico specifically. Having covered the array of issues that have arisen since Nov. 8, we knew there were too many to delve into in just one issue. But, as we just passed the six-month mark after the fire, and with 19,000 new residents in town, we felt it was an appropriate time to sit down and take a hard look at Chico’s biggest challenges.

Some of them may subside as homes are erected and critical services like safe drinking water return to the Ridge and surrounding communities. However, nobody knows what Chico is going to look like in the years to come. Our hope, after all is said and done, is that our collective communities will be stronger for having worked so closely together in this trying time.

We must maintain compassion for the long haul, as those who experienced the trauma of evacuating and losing homes, businesses or loved ones are still dealing with the aftereffects. In fact, studies show that right about now—at the six-month mark—those effects take on new life, as people begin to move on from the initial shock and are forced to accept a new reality. Our hearts still go out broadly to everyone affected directly by the fire.

But we cannot ignore those caught in the second wave of the disaster. Right now, Chico needs a lifeline. Our city government is struggling to address the needs of a community that grew by 20 percent literally overnight. From a housing shortage that continues to displace people who lived and worked here before the fire to an infrastructure system that was already overburdened and underfunded, the impacts are significant.

Finding solutions to these problems won’t be easy. We’re encouraged by the steps City Manager Mark Orme and state lawmakers are taking. We applaud them for their efforts. And, as Chico seeks funding for some of those solutions, we encourage others to think outside the box and bring forth their own creative ideas.

Thus far, though, the state and federal agencies responding to the Camp Fire have not come through with adequate aid for the communities dealing with the unprecedented secondary effects of the disaster. That’s not acceptable. We realize there’s no template for responding to such a situation. However, that does not release them from their obligations to act.