Camp Fire: Cleanup begins in Paradise 6 months after deadly wildfire

PARADISE, Calif. (KGO) -- Wednesday marks six months since the devastating Camp Fire destroyed much of the town of Paradise in Butte County.

The fire was the deadliest and most destructive wildfire ever in California. Eighty-five people died and more than 18,000 buildings were destroyed. That's 90 percent of the housing stock in Paradise alone. The cleanup is just getting underway.

According to some reports, just 1,400 out of 14,000 homes have been cleared away and 1.3 billion pounds of debris have been removed.

RELATED: Rebuilding begins in Paradise 6 months after devastating Camp Fire

A memorial is up by the side of the road just outside Paradise. It remained mostly overlooked, along with its significance.

"Do you know what day it is?" we asked one resident.

"Wednesday," they responded.

Same from another.

"I know it's Wednesday," they said.

RELATED: Camp Fire 911 calls reveal clearer picture of confusion

Yes-- Wednesday, six months after what another resident described as, "Armageddon."

It's not as if they have forgotten the Camp Fire, though there is much they would like to about the day Paradise and this region burned. Begin with the fiery exit path so many drove through to escape.

"I would never have guessed something like this could happen here," said resident Dwaine Tamayo.

"It's something you can't even put into words," said a woman nearby.

Six months after the fire, it takes just one look to appreciate the task still ahead of people in this region. In Paradise alone, 11,500 homes burned -- 90 percent of them.

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Many small businesses have never come back. Some people openly question why rebuild Paradise at all?

"I'm checking everywhere. Looking out of state. Texas. North Carolina," said Tamayo.

But for every person leaving, surveys indicate someone else wants to stay. Ron Wall fits into that category with his brother, and mother Shirley. "This is home," she said.

It will be again, someday, after they clear the land, get the permits, and get out of this mobile home on the property.

Wall said it feels longer than six months because he's not in his own house.

RELATED: Before and after views of Camp Fire destruction in Paradise

Some Paradisians will be getting home faster than others. "This would be the kitchen dining room," said Steve Culletin, as we walked him through the early foundation of his house. He is the proud owner of Building Permit #2, and acting on it. "As soon as they put out the rules and I could apply, I did. And I was consistent."

It helped that he has friends in the building business. Among them, contractor Mike White has gone into this with eyes wide open. "Lifelong friends are gone. My sister is gone. Everything you grew up with is gone."

But Paradise remains in name, anyway. And in ruins. And in keeping with the human spirit, it survives through hope after a hard dose of reality.

"It'll never be the same as it was," mused White. "Some say it will be better. But, time will tell."

And that, after six months, defines the state of optimism in this disaster zone.
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