Paradise was once a place to escape to. Located in the Sierra foothills, the rural enclave and surrounding communities were getaways from the Sacramento Valley and the cities of Chico and Oroville.
But what drew residents to Paradise – a place to disappear amid winding roads, hills and ravines above the Feather River and Butte Creek – has made the job of reconnecting with friends and relatives in the aftermath of the devastating Camp fire all the more challenging.
Message boards put up at shelters, evacuation centers and churches listing the names of the missing are crowded with plaintive appeals, reminiscent of the postings found in Manhattan after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Spotty cell coverage and downed power lines blocking access to burn areas have made the task more difficult. For Blake Bellairs, the challenge of reconnecting with his brother, Josh, meant overcoming the years they had not spoken to each other.