Still in relief mode a year after Camp Fire

A year after the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in state history, Butte County is still in crisis.

Things certainly have changed over the past 12 months, and there are many signs of progress. The tent cities that sprung up overnight are long gone, the debris cleanup is nearly completed, and our hotels and motels have vacancies. Yet, thousands of people are still struggling with basic needs, including shelter and food.

Over the past year, the CN&R has published more than 250 articles related to the Camp Fire. This week, in a wide-ranging issue, we delve back into the disaster on the eve of the anniversary. Among other things, we explore Enloe Medical Center’s strained operation, the county’s plans to improve disaster preparedness, the fire vulnerabilities related to a burned-out portion of the Miocene Canal, PG&E’s work to underground power lines on the Ridge, and District Attorney Mike Ramsey’s criminal investigation of the utility.

But at the heart of this disaster are people who are hurting and need help.

The trauma is real. It stems not only from the day they fled for their lives, but also all of the days thereafter that they’ve spent attempting to adjust to a new life. For some, it’s meant dealing with the loss of the place they called home, all of their possessions, and, worst of all, a friend or loved one who perished in the firestorm.

Perhaps what best illustrates where we are a year after the Camp Fire is our story on the tiny Ridge church that’s a sort of ground zero for ongoing relief efforts. Long after the parachute reporters and TV stations left town, and national charity groups like the Red Cross shuttered the shelter at Chico’s fairgrounds, the Magalia Community Church continues to care for those in need.

Church officials believe they are doing God’s work, and in our minds what they are doing is essential to the region’s well-being. Thing is, they need help to keep this going. Volunteers and supplies are in demand.

We don’t want to take away from the many other good works over the past year or the events to commemorate the anniversary. There will be beautiful, heartfelt remembrances and activities. But the reality is we have a long journey to recovery ahead.