Anniversaries and new beginnings

The weeks leading up to this awful anniversary have been difficult, to say the least. Not nearly as rough as actually going through it, of course, but all the memories have been flooding back.

Driving around Paradise, Magalia and the other communities affected by the fire these days is a much different experience than it was a year ago. From a business perspective, man, times are tough. I was impressed with the brave few owners who reopened their doors early on. If they didn’t cater to the cleanup crews, they struggled. But time marches on, and as people fill empty homes and move into RVs while they rebuild, there are more and more places opening up.

A few weeks ago, I stopped by the Paradise Ridge Chamber of Commerce for a meeting of contractors. As it was during a blackout, we met in the dark. What an interesting concept—they all acknowledged that no one of them can handle the job of rebuilding the entire Ridge, so they all showed up to forge partnerships. Of particular note were a handful of folks who came down from Alberta, Canada, which endured that country’s largest wildfire back in 2016. Others are local and others still plan to open offices in Butte County soon—watch out for a huge surge of blue collars over the next couple months. Where they’re all gonna live is anybody’s guess, unless they can bunk up with the tree crews at Tuscan Ridge.

A realtor mentioned to the group—and then reiterated to me—that there’s a huge need for skilled people who can do things like fix decks, replace damaged doors and windows, etc., on the homes that survived the fire. If you fit that bill, hit up the chamber and you’ll probably find some steady work.

New blood I came across a couple of new names during my regular research recently that bear mentioning. The first is close to my heart as it’s related to my chosen field: The DogTown Howler. The newspaper based in Magalia is focused on keeping people in the loop post-Camp Fire. Editor Tammy Waller Aviles has put out one issue so far—check it out at

The second is a particularly cool-looking venture called Burnt Barn Distilling Co. Located on the grounds of the former Chapelle de l’Artiste, which burned in the fire, the future whiskey distillery is making use of part of the foundation that remains. The pics so far look rad!

Breaking ground In non-Camp Fire-related news, I made it out to Rolling Hills Casino for the first time this past weekend (Nov. 2) for the Paskenta Band of Nomlaki Indians’ 25th anniversary of becoming a federally recognized tribe. To honor the occasion, the casino unveiled its massive expansion plans, which include a Fatburger and Rock and Brews restaurant/brewery/distillery. Bonus: They served foods off those menus—the Fatburger was delish, and my fave from Rock and Brews was the melt-off-the-bone ribs. Yum.