Rebuilding in Paradise

A campfire that broke out in November 2018 near the town of Paradise, California, turned out to be the deadliest wildfire in the United States in a century. The fire killed 86 people, destroyed more than 19,000 buildings, and tens of thousands of people were displaced. The cleanup is still ongoing, and it will take a long time to remove everything that was left behind from the evacuation.

Dillon Moore, an NWFA Certified Sand and Finisher based in Chico, California, felt the impact firsthand and was compelled to do something for his community. Moore reached out to the NWFA to organize installation training in the area to aid in the rebuilding efforts. He wanted to offer an opportunity to retrain people who had lost their homes and jobs. Once the rebuild of Paradise begins, there will be a high demand for construction workers. Dillon wanted to ensure that when the flooring goes back into homes, they are installed by a trained workforce.

The training was hosted by Carpet One in Chico with Moore, Avi Hadad, Roger Barker and me as instructors. The class was attended by some of Moore’s employees and a few other contractors. Materials were supplied by Maxwell Hardwood Flooring, Somerset Wood Products Inc., Fortifiber Building Systems Group, Titebond, and Loba-Wakol LLC. The three-day course dealt with common installation practices, borders, and patterned floor installation.

On the last day of class, we took a trip out to Paradise so the visiting instructors could see the area. Traffic had to keep moving to accommodate all the machinery and dump trucks that were involved in the cleanup, so there were not many places to stop and get out. It didn’t matter where you drove around Paradise, just about every home was completely burned out. The area was very lush with lots of tall trees between each of the houses.

Surprisingly, not every house burned. There were neighborhoods that were completely burned out, but then you would see one house untouched, and you had to wonder ‘how in the world did the one house survive?’

It was eerie to see all the devastation because you realize that people lived in each one of these houses, and all the things they once owned are not salvageable. These people had to leave everything they had behind as there was no time to gather anything when the evacuation order came in.

Each of the students that came with us to view the area had their own stories of the events of that day. It’s impossible to imagine the level of stress these people had to go through in order to gather their loved ones and get out.

The day of the fire, people got up and went through their usual routine. Some had already started working while others were dropping the kids off to school or still sleeping. The evacuation order came in at 8:00 am when the fire entered Paradise. The fire was fanned by 55 MPH winds and spread quickly. Once the evacuation order was announced, the focus was to try and get everyone out to safety. Kids who were dropped off at school had to be ushered into any available cars. The teachers would ask other parents if they could take children they knew, sorting out how to contact their parents to let them know they were safe. People were frantically trying to reach family members and friends to find out where they were and if they would be able to reach other friends and family members.

Unfortunately, the number of people who had to get out all at once and the limited number of roads to get out meant that traffic leaving Paradise was slower than the fire that was approaching them. Some people were not able to get out of the way in time. When speaking with some of the survivors, it became very clear that they have developed a whole new perspective. As heart-wrenching as it is to lose all of your possessions all at once, they feel lucky to have gotten out of the situation alive and look forward to rebuilding.

During The International Surface Event (TISE) 2019 in Las Vegas, NWFA member CalFlor launched the Camp Fire Recovery initiative to support their local community in the recovery efforts. They currently are in the process of seeking donations of both materials and labor for when the rebuilding process begins toward the end of the year. CalFlor’s efforts will focus on rebuilding nonprofits, schools, assisted living facilities, and special needs facilities. Anyone interested in donating or learning more can contact the CalFlor team at 888.277.FLOR or campfirehelp@cal-flor.com.

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