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Residents of Paradise Who Left After the Devastating Camp Fire Are Still at Risk from Severe Weather

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America’s major avenues have been devastated by extreme weather, and in the past five years, at least five towns in four states have almost completely vanished from the map following the fall of Paradise in Northern California.

According to Justin Miller, “at first I thought we were just going to, you know, maybe evacuate for a day or two, and then come back home,”

The 2018 Camp Fire, which claimed 85 lives, destroyed approximately 20,000 homes and businesses, including Justin Miller’s Paradise boyhood home. He now resides in the neighboring town of Oroville, one of the many who made the decision not to go back.

“At first, we were thinking, you know, after the lot was cleared off, we could rebuild there,” Miller explained. “But…then we realized that the town would take a while to rebuild, so it would just be easier to move someplace like here in Oroville.”

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that approximately 2.5 million Americans had to flee their homes due to severe weather in just the previous year. According to research published in March, 44% of all American houses are at risk from climate change.

“For my family, paradise was that place in the nineties where they could afford their own small house,” said Justin Miller’s older brother Ryan, who is currently pursuing a doctorate in geography and specializing in climate migration.

“Why were we in a situation where the affordable place was also the place that had this huge hazard?” Ryan queries. “And so, it made me really start to view Paradise through the lens of these broader issues around housing affordability and exposure to climate-driven risks.”

Ryan and his colleagues at the University of California, Davis followed people’s movements during the Camp Fire by analyzing postal records. They discovered that moving into places that were also at risk from other types of disasters, such hurricanes and tornadoes, frequently resulted in people being placed in danger rather than solving the issue.

“Maybe we’re in a situation where, increasingly, people are finding that in their search for affordable housing, they sort of have to live in an area that’s exposed to one of these climate-driven hazards,” Ryan stated.

“We’re going to see more potential Paradises happening, where we have these communities exposed to this threat that the community might not be prepared to face,” Ryan continues.

Residents of Paradise Kylie Wrobel and her daughter Ellie stayed behind after the Camp Fire, mostly taking care of themselves by removing dead trees and other vegetation from their property as they sought for and awaited federal assistance.

They claim that their definition of home has changed.”Home for me was kind of a place you live in, but home will always be wherever my mom is,” Ellie stated.

After five years, the families of Paradise have moved away, tearing apart the small town’s fabric. Tell that to the Wrobels, however, who are settlers of a new American town that they believe will be storm-resistant due to climate change.

“Seeing the town grow and build, my heart needed this,” remarked Kylie. “Many individuals would prefer not to return here. I had to remain in this location.”

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