PARADISE (CBS13) — Ridge rising is a term that's being used to describe the overwhelming task of rebuilding in Paradise.
The small town was nearly wiped out after the Camp Fire. The road to recovery will take decades. Paradise had 26,000 people before the Camp Fire and now less than 5,000 reside in the town. Friday, as neighbors held each other, they remembered the tragedy and the triumphs this past year.
Carol Souza wiped back tears as she looked at plans for Hope Plaza in the heart of Paradise. The memorial will honor the 85 people who died during the Camp Fire and those who tried to save them. Souza lost her best friend.
"I think she would have loved all this. She loved this town," said Souza.
Souza also lost her home and her job. She remembers the terror of fleeing one year ago.
"It took us three hours to get outta town. I had my 89-year-old mother with me and she has been through three fires. The first when she was a 13-year-old and she saw her mother burn to death," Souza said.
Souza's lot has been cleared and she has applied for a building permit. In the last year, there have been 475 building permit applications, 330 issued and 12 new homes built that are now occupied.
"I've had people say 'Only 12 homes?' But the fact that we had any totally rebuilt after we had 3 million tons of debris hauled away off the ridge is amazing," said mayor Jody Jones.
Jones, who also lost her home, has been overwhelmed
"There's lots of decisions to make when you build a home and when you build a town," said Jones.
She was proud to unveil a new Resiliency Center in a building donated by Bank of America along Skyway. It will be a one-stop-shop for permitting and other rebuilding info on the ridge.
"It's awe-inspiring," said Councilwoman Michelle Schuster, who also lost her home. In fact, the entire council had no place to live after the Camp Fire.
At the center of that center, is a Phoenix rising from the ashes made of keys.
"It's so powerful to see the keys from all the locks that no longer exist, to homes cars, a diary key, a fire hose key," said Schuster.
As neighbors held each other and shared stories of survival Carol Souza rejoiced.
"This is so upbeat. I think our town will be stronger. It's beautiful," said Souza.
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