It’s been six months since the Camp Fire devastated Paradise. One person who survived the first is Patty Mannel. She’s a nurse who works with mentally and physically disabled clients. Both agencies were located in Paradise.
On the day of the fire she was working at California Vocations, Inc. Since Mannel had evacuated three times previously, she didn’t worry, as she didn’t think the fire was terribly close. It looked like it was “in the canyon.”
But things changed quickly. California Vocations, Inc. houses some of Mannel’s clients. That complex had two residences, one administration building and a day program facility. One of the homes caught fire, so they had to accelerate the evacuation. Then Mannel heard from her her daughter, who told her to get out of Paradise. Mannel managed to reach her home, she and her husband grabbed a few things and their cat and evacuated to Chico, where her daughter lives.
Mannel and her husband’s house didn’t burn, but they did have to live with her daughter for months. They’ve only been back in their house since late February. She says she has survivor guilt but at the same time, after a recent community meeting she says she was heartened by the positive energy of the people who attended.
But she doesn’t know if they’ll see their town return to “normal.” A lot of people have left. Some have bought property elsewhere. Some people lost everything. Mannel says she’s saddened by those who've left, who she feels don't want to communicate with her any longer.
In trying to make sense of why her house didn’t burn, Mannel has come to this conclusion: she says she has two bedrooms and would be happy to have anyone who’s thinking about coming back to Paradise to stay with her. Or if they want to be in town when their property is cleaned. She says she can offer a bed and a hot shower. Which helps her feel just a little bit better about surviving.
Mannel joins Insight to reflect on the rebuilding, coping, and hope after the fire as people start to return.