Paradise welcomes back 1st family to rebuild their home after Camp Fire

Paradise, California, is growing again. The town issued its first Certificate of Occupancy for a rebuilt home on Monday — eight months after the Camp Fire devastated the community. (Courtesy: Courtesy Victoria Sinclaire)

PARADISE, Calif. — Paradise, California, is growing again.

The town issued its first Certificate of Occupancy for a rebuilt home on Monday — eight months after the Camp Fire devastated the community.

That means that the Sinclaire family can start moving in.

“I’m finally home,” Victoria Sinclaire told CNN. “I think I’m going to sleep really good tonight.”

The Sinclaires lost everything in the Camp Fire, which broke out on November 8 of last year and burned more than 153,000 acres. Authorities said it caused 85 deaths and destroyed almost 13,972 homes, 528 businesses and 4,293 other buildings.

“I don’t know how we made it out,” she said. “That was terrifying. I’m still in disbelief that we made it out because we were surrounded by fire the entire time.”

Sinclaire, her husband Travis and daughter Emily stayed with family members in Sacramento, and then found a place in Chico, so Emily could finish her senior year at Paradise High School.

“She wanted to be a Paradise High Bobcat,” Sinclaire said.

They weren’t able to go back to Paradise for six weeks, but they knew their house was gone.

“When I started seeing photos from the destruction, there was a side of me that wasn’t sure if I could move back there,” Sinclaire said. “There was a moment when I thought ‘there’s no way.'”

They changed their mind when they finally got to return.

“As soon as we were able to come back up here, and I stood on my property, I felt at home,” she said. “Even though I was shocked and sad, I still felt more at home than I had in that six weeks.”

They broke ground in April with the hopes that construction would be done in time for the anniversary of the fire.

Builder Ken Blanton said that “everything just came together,” and they were able to finish the job much faster than expected.

He said they’ve got four other houses in Paradise that will be done in the next few weeks.

“There is a lot of challenges, such as getting our supplies,” he said. “There were no stores up here, so the logistics of it were challenging.”

Most of the building supplies for the Sinclaire house had to be brought in from Sacramento, which is almost 90 miles away.

“We used all local subs, I’ve kept every electrician, every plumber … roofers, everything. So we’ve really tried to rebuild our community and supply our guys here.”

Blanton also lost his home in the fire, and so did many of his workers.

“I lost my house, a spec house, a rental house, my business, my shop, but we bought a new office and all that kind of stuff,” he said. His new house will be ready soon.

The Camp Fire destroyed 90 percent of Paradise and displaced almost all of its residents, according to California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office.

A door-to-door survey conducted in April found that only 2,034 people were living in Paradise — down from an estimated population of 26,800 before the fire.

Last week, Newsom declared Paradise and and adjacent unincorporated Butte County as “rural areas,” which makes them eligible for additional aid.

The Sinclaire family’s homecoming was cause for celebration in town. A local pizza place even donated food for a pizza party.

“This is a huge milestone in our community’s recovery,” the town wrote on its Facebook page.

Sinclaire said she hoped to start moving in Monday night and their furniture is scheduled to be delivered on Tuesday.

Sinclaire hopes she inspires her friends and former neighbors to come back too.

“My home is as fire resistant as humanely possible and I feel like the town is taking every step that they need to make sure that we are safe,” she said.

She said there are a handful of houses in her area and her mom and stepfather have also decided to rebuild in Paradise.

“I just want people to come home,” she said. “Just come home.”

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