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Special Episode: Finding Paradise


WORLD Radio - Special Episode: Finding Paradise

A small California town rebuilds after a devastating fire.

NICK EICHER, HOST: From the creative team at WORLD Radio, this is “Finding Paradise,” a special presentation of The World and Everything In It

The Camp Fire was the deadliest and most destructive American wildfire on record. In just one day, nearly the entire town of Paradise, California, burned to the ground.

The blaze killed 85 people, destroyed more than 19,000 homes and businesses, and charred nearly 240 square miles of surrounding forest. Damages equaled more than $16.5 billion

This fall, WORLD’s Sarah Schweinsberg visited the town at the center of the tragic wildfire: Paradise, California. This is their story. 

SARAH SCHWEINSBERG, REPORTER: Townsfolk disagree over how Paradise got its name. 

One story says gold prospectors and loggers flocked to the area in the 1850s, drawn by thick forests and a river rich with gold. In fact, one prospector found a 54 pound gold nugget. 

The loggers struck it big too. And one day after delivering a shipment of wood, one sat down under the shade of a ponderosa pine sighed and said, “Boys, this is Paradise.” 

The city’s official history page embraces this version. Jody Jones was the mayor at the time of the fire. 

JODY JONES: I really do think that people named it Paradise because it was a beautiful place.

There are other stories that are less noble. 

The legend goes that the same loggers and prospectors were a rough crowd—drinking and gambling. So, over time, the name evolved like this: Pair Of Dice, Pair uh dice, Paradise. 

Jody Jones isn’t buying it. 

JODY JONES: I don’t think that’s true. 

Regardless which story is true, over the years, the town’s reputation changed and it became a kind of paradise for 26,000 people. Families and retirees came here for a slower, simpler life under a canopy of trees. 

TOMILEE DEATHERAGE: We lived in Paradise before the Camp Fire.

Tomilee Deatherage, her husband, and two teenagers left the bustling Sacramento area five years ago and moved to Paradise. 

But she didn’t work there. Her music studio is down in Chico. That’s where she sits now on a piano bench with her dark hair pulled into a high bun. 

Chico is 15 minutes from Paradise… down in the valley. It’s the largest city in Butte County with 100,000 people. 

Deatherage didn’t want to live there. She wanted to live in quieter Paradise, just 15 minutes up into the forested foothills. 

She can’t talk about Paradise without crying. 

TOMILEE DEATHERAGE: Even though it’s not far from Chico, it still had its own personality. It had a really good small town feel. 

That’s how Paradise became a bedroom community. People trying to escape high housing costs and the “city” lifestyle, came up here. The Deatherages bought a house with five acres and went to work making it their own. 

TOMILEE DEATHERAGE: Our house felt like it was kind of like a tree house. It had so many trees around…

Paradise didn’t have a lot of chain restaurants or shopping, but Tomilee Deatherage says it had everything they needed.

TOMILEE DEATHERAGE: We didn’t have a lot of clothes shops and things like that, but we had all the necessities. 

Of course, Paradise also has its quirks. Former mayor Jody Jones says one of the reasons the town didn’t have more industry and businesses is that it doesn’t have a city sewer system. 

JONES: Paradise is the largest town west of the Mississippi without a sewer system. 

Paradise didn’t officially become a town until 1979. That means it grew up without much of a plan. 

Gold miners and railroad companies laid the roads. But their interests were getting to mineral deposits, not moving traffic through the area efficiently. 

There’s three main roads through town running north and south. Those roads have short, dead-end streets sprouting off in all directions. 

Jody Jones says what the town lacked in organization, it made up for in activities. 

AUDIO: [Nugget days parade]

JONES: Gold Nugget days was in April. The chocolate fest was around Mother’s Day. In the spring, Johnny Appleseed Days…

That close-knit community was perfect for raising kids. Donnie Harp, his wife, Tanya Ross-Harp and their six kids lived in Paradise. 

DONNIE HARP: It was a really great small town feel.

They’re a close family. They like singing together, movie nights, and having nerf gun wars. 

In Paradise, the Harps trusted their neighbors. Kids were safe to experience and explore the area on their own. Logan Harp would ride his bike on an old railroad track through town.

LOGAN HARP: Most of my friends were a small slight walk away from that trail. Everything felt close.

Dad, Donnie Harp, moved up to Paradise in the 90s. He was drawn by the affordable housing, but stayed because of the people. 

He tells a story about a time he went to the bank in Paradise shortly after he moved there. Someone had left their debit card in the ATM. 

DONNIE HARP: And there was a note posted on the ATM that said so and so you left your card in the machine. I’ll bring it to the bank tomorrow kind of thing. And I thought, Wow, that’s a good community. (laughter)

NEWSCAST: Tonight in the west, wicked wildfires, burning their way into the record books…

2018 was a big year for fires in California. That summer, the massive Mendocino Complex and the Carr Fire tore through California’s forests. 

NEWSCAST: We begin with this, a deadly wildfire in California suddenly exploded over night. The Carr Fire burned dozens of homes…

The state was still in the midst of a decade-long drought and some of the hottest temperatures on record. But Butte County—and Paradise—had come through the worst of the fire season unscathed. 

Even if there had been a fire, resident Andy Robins says the people of Paradise weren’t particularly concerned. That’s because in the town’s entire history, a wildfire had never crossed city limits. People worried more about a fire starting in town. 

ANDY ROBINS: They’ve always said Paradise was gonna burn. Just because the way it was so overgrown… So they always thought it would burn from someone in town starting a fire, catching the town on fire. Not a forest fire. 

That’s why on November 8th the smoke plumes in the distance didn’t alarm most Paradise residents. 

Tanya Ross-Harp started her day at 6:30 that morning. She went outside to look at  new rose bushes. 

TANYA HARP: So I went out to check on them. And while I was doing that. I turned around and noticed that a bear had  gotten into the chicken coop, which was a thing that happens up there. But I looked up after noticing that and saw the first plume of smoke. It looked pretty far away. 

Her husband, Donnie, hadn’t left for work yet. 

TANYA HARP: I went in and told him what I had seen.

They decided it wasn’t really something to worry about. 

TANYA HARP: You could tell it was a couple of ridges away.

And so the family went about their normal routine. At 7:30, Tanya took some of their kids to school. 

TANYA HARP: It was getting smoky. And there were some big, like pieces of ash. We’re talking like big, big pieces. But at that point, it still, it was kind of like, Okay, this is different. But as far as we knew the fire was not in town. 

What the family didn’t know was that the fire was spreading—fast. That morning, at 6:15 a.m., power company PG&E reported a power outage about 7 miles northeast of Paradise. 

Fourteen minutes later, one of those power lines just off the Camp Creek Road sparked, catching the grass and trees around it on fire. A PG&E worker called in the small blaze and dispatchers sent out a call to firefighters. 

DISPATCHER: Approximately in the area off Camp Creek Road calling from the Poe Dam looking across under the high tension power lines, there’s a possible powerline hazard….

Fifteen minutes later, the first firefighter arrived on the scene. By that time, the small fire had become a wildfire. It was already 10 acres and growing.  

Tomilee Deatherage walked out to her car at 7:30—an hour after the fire had started. She planned on dropping her son, Spencer, off at the golf course where he worked. Then, she’d drive down to her music studio in Chico. 

But outside, the look of the sky stopped her. It was glowing orange like a brilliant sunrise…but it was too late in the morning for that.  

DEATHERAGE: At the time we looked through the trees and was like something’s not right, because it’s not sunrise time. Like it should be now the sun should be up. And it was kind of dark.

Deatherage called a friend to find out what was happening, 

DEATHERAGE: And he said, Oh yeah, it’s far away. Don’t worry about it.

That morning, the Robins family was also going about their normal business. Chris Robins headed to work at the town charter school. 

CHRIS ROBINS: It was actually a very nice day. 

Parents dropped their children off at the cinderblock school like usual. Teachers just sent the students inside instead of to the playground.

CHRIS ROBINS: We were treating it like a smoke day. 

What no one realized was that the fire was quickly blazing toward the eastern half of Paradise. 

The dry forests and high winds fed the fire. At some points, the blaze grew by as much area as a football field every second. And the wind pushed it toward Paradise. 

Those high winds also kept firefighting helicopters grounded—limiting ways to fight to the fire. 

At 8 a.m. the Butte County Sheriff tweeted the first evacuation order for the eastern half of Paradise—just 90 minutes after the fire started 7 miles away.  

That’s when Tomilee Deatherage pulled up next to a city worker at an intersection. She had just dropped her son off at his golf course job and was about to head down to Chico. 

DEATHERAGE: She had a window down and I said, Hey, I need to know the truth. I see people going about their day life, but something is wrong. And I said, Do I need to go home and get my cat? And she said, Yes, get up and get your cat. Get down the hill. You need to do it as fast as you can. 

So  Deatherage drove back to her house. Now, the sky was getting darker and the  eerie orange glow wasn’t far away. It was in town. 

DEATHERAGE: I literally parked the car, and I run upstairs to get the carrier for the cat, put the cat in it… 

As she looked around at what to grab next, her mom called. She said Tomilee’s son, Spencer, was worried because the golf course was on the eastern side of town, close to the approaching fire. 

Tomilee decided to go get him. She didn’t have time to pack up anything else. 

DEATHERAGE: And this is hard because this is emotional for me. We had a really nice Canvas picture of our kids. Outside of our Bibles. It was definitely probably the most prized possession I had in my house. And I stood there, and it had had glass on it. I knew it was really heavy. So immediately I think you know, I I don’t even have a minute because if one minute makes a difference and I get there and it’s too late, I will never never ever forgive myself for the time I took (voice breaks) to grab the photo.

Tomilee Deatherage left with the music supplies she kept in her car and her cat. As she pulled out onto one of the main roads through Paradise, people were starting to panic. 

DEATHERAGE: It’s dark, the trees are lighting up so fast. And you start hearing sirens. And it’s like, the world just went crazy. People were driving over curbs, every ambulance, anything that could help people were busy trying to rescue people. 

At the same time, Chris Robins saw parents dropping their kids off at school start to get jumpy. They didn’t want to leave their children anymore. 

ROBINS: Some parents were like, we’re not dropping off. We don’t feel right.

And the ones who had dropped off their children earlier came back. The trees and houses in Paradise were lighting up like candles. 

CHRIS ROBINS: They could immediately see we’re in trouble. Our town is in trouble.

At 8:30 a.m., Donnie Harp decided to go get his kids from school.  

They got back home a little after 9. The orange sky and the ashes falling from it let the family know they didn’t have long. 

At 9:17, the county ordered everyone in Paradise to evacuate.

Despite the panic, Tanya Ross-Harp, still felt like this was like any other evacuation. The year before, they’d also evacuated.

TANYA ROSS-HARP: We’re gonna pack up the house, but everything is okay.

Donnie and Tanya told their children to pack like they were just leaving for the night. 

As people began to evacuate, cars clogged the roads. Some people just stopped, unsure where to go. Others sped through intersections, not letting cross traffic merge. 

Tomilee Deatherage was trying to race back across town to get to her son, Spencer, from the golf course. But making simple turns became nearly impossible. 

DEATHERAGE: People were running the lights because they were seeing the trees on fire. And so I finally, you know, just became really aggressive because it’s what you have to do. 

But traffic still wasn’t moving fast enough, so Tomilee and her husband called Spencer. They told him to take any vehicle—even a golf cart—and leave town.

DEATHERAGE: So he found a key to his boss’s car. He had no time to call his boss to ask for permission. 

Spencer drove the car down a back road to Chico. He was safe. 

DEATHERAGE: He just said Mom, there were walls of fire. In my mind as a mom, I’m like, you know you don’t even have your license! 

At Achieve Charter School, parents had evacuated nearly all the students. But there were still 27 kids whose parents couldn’t get to them. So Chris Robins and the other teachers divided them into their cars. 

ROBINS: We made lists of who’s going with who. We made a meeting place at the bottom of Skyway.

The Skyway is the main four-lane highway through town. Chris Robins and her coworker were the last to leave the school around 10:00 a.m. 

At the same time, Chris’s husband Andy and their son Issac were at home. They quickly threw together some clothes and important family momentos. 

Andy went outside to hook up a trailer to his truck. By now the sky was glowing red, and it was so dark, he had to use a flashlight to see what he was doing.

ANDY ROBINS: And the air on the ground was just moving like 25-30 miles an hour.

Even though it was mid-morning, it was as dark as midnight. Andy and Isaac flipped on their lights and hit the road.

By then, the Harp family was also ready to leave. They quickly packed their things into two vehicles and Donnie Harp’s construction trailer. Three kids jumped in with Donnie and the other three with Tanya. 

DONNIE HARP: And it was like, almost left the front door open.

For the people evacuating Paradise, leaving home was just the first hurdle. Getting out of town was another ordeal. 

Everyone was trying to escape at once. And only three roads led out of town. 

Traffic was bumper to bumper—inching, crawling along. It took two hours for Tomilee Deatherage to drive less than 1 mile. 

DEATHERAGE: The smoke was getting really bad at that point… I was trying to figure out how to shut the vents on my car. 

At this rate, Tomilee didn’t know how she’d beat the fire quickly spreading through town. 

DEATHERAGE: I told my husband I said, I don’t know if I can get out of here. This is like so scary, people won’t stop and I’m trying to get across the street.

And she had another problem. She had started the day with half a tank of gas. As she neared the edge of Paradise, she looked at her gas gauge. She was down to an eighth of a tank. And she still had 10 miles to go in traffic. 

Thankfully, she pulled up next to a gas station. 

DEATHERAGE: So I’m getting gas and there’s other people that don’t have money that are trying to get gas. We’re all trying to help each other. And then I beg somebody to let me back out onto the Skyway. So I get back out into the traffic. 

Chris Robins and her coworker, Michelle, were also inching down the road. But because of the crazy winds, the fire actually lit up the trees ahead of them. They were driving into the fire… not away from it. 

ROBINS: Inside we ultimately knew this is wrong. We are going the wrong way. We’re going into the fire, not out of it. But we were stuck. Like you just had to keep moving forward And I said we’re going to keep driving until these tires melt off. And if we have to, there’s a pool, and we’re going to run and jump in that pool.

To add to her fears, Chris Robins’ phone calls to her husband, Andy, weren’t going through. 

Later investigations revealed the fire burned 17 cell phone towers and damaged more than 60 others. That meant many families and friends couldn’t check in on each other. It also meant some people didn’t get the evacuation orders. 

But Chris Robins’ texts to her daughter-in-law did go through. Her daughter-in-law could see Andy’s cell phone location on an iPhone app. 

CHRIS ROBINS: And from that, she said, Mom, I see him. And I’m like, Thank You, Lord, that I knew he got out. I had peace that okay, he’s moving forward. 

When the Harp family left their house , they also encountered the choking traffic. As they sat waiting to pull out onto the Skyway highway, Donnie and some of the kids got out of their cars to talk with neighbors. But then they started hearing explosions. The propane tanks on grills were overheating and bursting. 

TANYA ROSS-HARP: From that moment on, I didn’t know if we were going to make it out of town. And I was totally aware of that. Being stuck and not knowing is… it’s tough.

Eventually, the Harps pulled their two vehicles onto the Skyway highway and slowly started moving forward. Tanya asked her three boys in the car to stay quiet. 

TANYA: Because I needed to listen. I needed to listen emotionally, spiritually… be kind of more centered than get riled up.

In Donnie’s car, his two daughters cried in the backseat. Older brother Christian, sat turned around in the front, so he could hold their hands. 

As they neared the edge of town, Donnie was getting frustrated with the car ahead of them. It was moving too slowly. As they inched along, Tanya looked to her right. She saw a telephone pole burning. 

TANYA ROSS-HARP: And I heard a crack. And I knew that that telephone pole was going down and it was directly to the side of me. Right where Bryce and Nathan were sitting.

In the car ahead. Donnie and Christian Harp noticed the burning telephone pole, too. 

Suddenly, behind them, they saw Tanya’s car lunge forward onto the shoulder of the road. Tanya had moved her Yukon just in time. 

TANYA ROSS-HARP: And the pole just barely nicked the back of the Yukon. It didn’t really get us. It wasn’t an issue, which is wonderful. Because had we not been there at that moment. I don’t, who knows? Who would have seen or not seen that telephone pole?

Down in Chico, authorities closed any uphill traffic. That meant panicked Paradise residents couldn’t rush back up to their houses to save pets or grab things from their houses. 

But it also meant cars leaving Paradise could drive in all four lanes of the Skyway Highway, moving traffic faster. As the Harps started down the Skyway, flames licked their vehicles. Trees and houses on either side of the road burned. They were driving through a tunnel of fire.

DONNIE HARP: When we started heading down, that uphill lane… the flames were blowing, and getting real close to the truck. It was so hot. That was the first moment that we got to see the flames and people’s houses burning, literally everything else was just black.

That’s when Donnie had a stark realization.

DONNIE HARP: The whole trip, I was looking at my mirror, is my wife behind me is my wife behind me, you know, headlights. And all of a sudden the Lord revealed to me right there, that if Tanya stop, I couldn’t. And realizing that I had three of our six kids with me. If she stopped, I had to keep going. And that was the most humbling moment of my life. That’s when God really, really clarified how little control we have.

Little by little, the Harps, Robins, and Tomilee Deatherage inched down the ridgeline to Chico. The usual 15 minute drive took six hours. 

Tomilee Deatherage made it out around 11 o’clock. She saw people lining the side of the highway—all trying to spot the cars of family and friends.  

DEATHERAGE: People were looking for loved ones… 

The Harps emerged at 12:30—three hours after leaving home. When they got to the end of the Skyway, Donnie Harp saw a friend who was a police officer. His friend was one of the officers blocking uphill traffic. 

DONNIE HARP: And so as we go by, he’s doing the waving, and he blew me a kiss. And I kind of lost it at that point too. Because, you know…we were safe. 

Chris and Andy Robins and their son, Isaac made it out of Paradise last that day. They didn’t reunite until 5 o’clock that evening in a Lowe’s parking lot. 

In the days after the fire, aid for fire survivors flooded into Chico. Clothes, food, and furniture. The Walmart and mall parking lots became makeshift survivor camps.  

Nonprofits tried to organize donations and make distributing supplies efficient. Stephanie Hayden runs a local Christian non-profit called the Hope Center. In the three weeks after the fire, the Hope Center opened two new locations filled with supplies. 

HAYDEN: People who lost their homes or were evacuated could… get everything from dog food, pillows, clothes, food, just any general need that they have. 

Up to 800 fire survivors came through those warehouses everyday. Volunteers also stepped up. 

HAYDEN: We were here in this building at that counter, facilitating between two to 500 volunteers.

Churches also stepped in. Jacob Kliebe is a pastor at Calvary Chapel in Chico. His church hosted Samaritan’s Purse workers who came to help clean up properties. 

KLIEBE: Seeing the body of Christ come together was extremely encouraging. Seeing the generosity of people. We had a family Thanksgiving. The fire was November 8. So Thanksgiving was just a few weeks later. We had over 200 people, and it was just a big potluck.

Churches, friends and family also used connections to find survivors places to stay. 

The Robins’ pastors found them an apartment in Chico: a small miracle.

CHRIS ROBINS: Our pastors were so gracious. Our church knew that we were going to need a place. We’re still in a rental and the apartment. 

Tomilee Deatherage, her husband and son, moved into her daughter’s small apartment. 

DEATHERAGE: They’re in a two bedroom apartment. 

And friends took in all nine members of the Harp family. 

Survivors weren’t allowed to drive up to Paradise to see if their homes escaped the flames. They anxiously waited for word from FEMA workers. 

A week after the fire, Chris and Andy Robins got a video from a family member helping with cleanup efforts. The video looks like a black and white photo. Everything is ash. 

AUDIO: Pretty much devastation on both sides of the street… everything is toasted. 

He confirmed their house was gone.

AUDIO: Yeah, so sorry guys. This is horrible. Absolutely horrible. 

The Harps and Deatherages homes were also gone. 

So the question quickly became what’s next? 

For the Harps things moved quickly. The day after the fire, Donnie and Tanya began looking at real estate in Chico. They found a house for sale at the right price. 

DONNIE HARP: They accepted the offer Sunday.

Just four days after the fire, the family moved into a new home. Friends and family donated furniture.

DONNIE HARP: The Lord made us whole, so fast. It was so amazing to see his hand through so many other hearts.

The Harps were grateful, but they also felt guilty. So many others were living in hotels and campers for months and months..People like Tomilee Deatherage.

After living with their daughter for six weeks, the Deatherages moved into an animal-friendly hotel for two months. That was a tough time. Tomilee avoided the hotel as much as possible. She just couldn’t feel comfortable there.

DEATHERAGE: We would stay out with friends that had lost their house too. We would try to find restaurants that stay open late, or sit in our cars and talk. 

Eventually, the Deatherages found an apartment, but Tomilee wanted to rebuild in Paradise. Tomilee and her husband had spent hours dreaming about it. They sketched the ideal home. Yet, she knew it was going to be a long, expensive process. 

One day, she saw an ad for a house near Paradise. The house looked just like one Tomilee had drawn.

DEATHERAGE: You get that you kind of feeling like you’re going to cry because it feels like God did this because I would have never found this.

The Deatherages moved in April 2019—almost six months after the fire. 

Other families decided to rebuild in Paradise. 

But not many. 

CHRIS ROBINS: The famous Paradise sign is gone. It’s gone. 

It’s been two years since the fire. The Robins family drives through town. The leafy canopy of trees no longer shades the streets. They’ve become matchsticks with branches that look like frazzled hair. 

ANDY ROBINS: You look out through there 80 percent that’s dead.

Hundreds of empty lots now sit between the charred trees. 

CHRIS ROBINS: This was a school. The gold nugget museum…This was our Paradise Elementary School, which all burned.

Dozens of crews from the government and organizations like Samaritan’s Purse hauled tons of debris out of town. Issac Robins says before all that work, Paradise looked like a warzone. 

ISAAC ROBINS: There was so much rubble just around and trash that it was crazy. But now it’s just kind of like deserted, empty. 

But the fire didn’t take everything. Twelve-hundred homes survived.

CHRIS ROBINS: Okay, so this house survived. This house survived. This was new. This has just been built. This house survived. 

As well as some businesses.  

CHRIS ROBINS: Pre-fire we did not have To As aw have, which was newer, Starbucks and Dutchbros, and those two both survived, which was probably a huge blessing for all the workers up here…

The Robins say not everyone who used to live up here can come visit. It’s just too painful to relive the memories. 

CHRIS ROBINS: A lot of my friends, my co workers, my family, they can’t come up here, and they go into shock. They’re heartbroken.

Twenty-six thousand people once called Paradise home…two years after the fire, only one in five have returned.

In the days and months following the fire, survivors had a long list of people to blame. At the top of that list, the power company, PG&E. 

Next on the list were city leaders. Some residents said they didn’t prepare enough for a wildfire. The town should have had more or better roads so everyone could escape quickly. Officials should not have allowed trees and shrubbery to get so  overgrown. 

Former mayor Jody Jones says she agrees the town could have done more. But at the same time, no one could have predicted a blaze like the Camp Fire. 

JONES: We ended up with an entire town evacuation, which totally overwhelmed our transportation system. No one, no town, anywhere, no city has enough roadway capacity to take their entire population all at one time.

Jody Jones also lost her home in the fire. She and her husband have since rebuilt and now she’s on the town council. 

She says the community will make improvements. A sewer system is in the works. 

JONES: Any business that is very water intensive, cannot be sustained on a septic system… It’s really, really inhibiting the growth of the town. 

And it will have more fire codes and fire safety enforcement. 

JONES: We’ve adopted a defensible space ordinance. So, nothing combustible within 5 feet of your home or other structures. Your landscaping should follow the defensible space guidelines…

The Deatherages, Harps, and Robins say while time has healed some wounds, they still grieve their old lives. The Harp kids miss their home in Paradise. 

ASHLEY HARP: The kitchen was huge. It was open it led to the living room into the dining room.

LOGAN HARP: There was a creek and we used to play down there a lot.

Tanya and Donnie say family worship, prayer, and Scripture reading help. They are reminded that they still have the real Paradise to look forward to.

AUDIO: [Family singing “Cannons” “You are holy. Great and mighty. The Moon and the stars, declare who you are.”]

TANYA ROSS-HARP: Music had been a big part of our lives up in Paradise. And continuing that worship creates that feeling of wholeness with us as a group.

For Tomilee Deatherage she grieves the picture of her children she didn’t have time to grab. Her wedding album. Her wedding dress. Things that insurance can’t replace. 

DEATHERAGE: It doesn’t replace your treasures from your kids when they grew up. It doesn’t replace your grandmother’s or your mother’s beautiful rosewood desk that you think you’re going to pass on to your family.

The fire also changed how she thinks. Now, she never goes home without filling her car up with gas. She also keeps fire “go bags” packed with her most valuable belongings. 

DEATHERAGE: Now we don’t have good insurance anymore, so if something like this were to happen, we will be fighting a lot more probably to replace the things that we do have.

As for the Robins, they’re still living in an apartment in Chico. But they plan to rebuild. Their property has been in the family for nearly 50 years. 

ANDY ROBINS: It’s home. It’s always been home.

They are sketching out what their new house will look like. 

ROBINS: It’s gonna be different. It’s gonna be completely different. 

They haven’t broken ground on it, but soon. They know they have a long road ahead. But Chris Robin says going home is worth it. 

CHRIS ROBIN: It’s going to be rebuilding from the ground up. And a lot of people look at this as like desert and despair, but I look at there is growth, there is new life coming back. And it will be Paradise again.

“Finding Paradise” is a production of WORLD Radio and The World and Everything In It

We’d like to thank Pastor Jacob Kleibe for suggesting this story and introducing us to the Harp and Robins families. Also, former WORLD reporter Samantha Gobba for her help on the ground.

This episode was written by Sarah Schweinsberg. Leigh Jones is our script editor. Johnny Franklin is our technical producer. And Paul Butler is the executive producer. 

I’m Nick Eicher, thanks for listening.

(AP Photo/Noah Berger, File) This Nov. 9, 2018, file photo, firefighters work to keep flames from spreading through the Shadowbrook apartment complex as a wildfire burns through Paradise, Calif. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.


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