Town of Paradise a ghost town

July 9, 2008 11:52:57 PM PDT
The Feather River Hospital, which was evacuated, is nearly empty. The good news now is that nearby, the fire stayed down due to a lack of wind, but the bad news is all the smoke.

In the Butte County, the town named paradise has become a paradox, a complete contradiction in terms. It has been hot and smoky and miserable, here for weeks.

Coughin and coughin and coughin. I have no energy and cough anymore," said Paradise resident Eileen Hollingsworth.

In paradise, an inversion layer packed the still, smoky air so thick that even from lookout points above the Feather River Canyon, the flames could not be seen. The fire stayed down, though.

"We're prepared for it if it does come," said

But this is a wary community. About 3,200 homes have been evacuated, and there are more in the process.

"I have six dogs, six kids," said evacuee Peggy Thomas.

And if Peggy is lucky, she'll find a place to sleep. Every hotel and motel within 50 miles is booked.

Some people are even sleeping in RV's in a church parking lot.

"This is different. Weird, weird," said an evacuee.

Serious enough that on Wednesday morning, the county hospital closed. It sent 38 patients to other hospitals.

At the Paradise K-Mart, the manager ordered staff to strip shelves and start packing. The store has sent five truckloads so far to Chico.

"Ship it out, is what I'm told. Pack it and move it," said a K-Mart employee.

All this in the small town named paradise, that isn't. Not as long as a fire burns nearby -- at least.

"Come on, let's get going," said Thomas.

The air is so thick in Paradise, it is almost impossible to see the smoke. The temperature is also at about 108 degrees.

The evacuations the Paradise are not mandatory, some people are staying, but they do have cars packed and their front yards are ready to go if the wind changes.


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