Survivors of California’s deadliest wildfire haunted as new blaze nears: ‘I can’t do it again’

Washington Post

By María Luisa Paúl , Hannah Knowles and Frances Stead
Desiree Maurer stands at the place in Westwood, Calif., she called home. Maurer relocated to Westwood after the 2018 Camp Fire in Paradise, Calif. (Kyle Grillot for The Washington Post)

Stacey Hoffman has barely slept the past week, as the Dixie Fire edged closer to her new home in Chester, Calif. She spent nights by the window, haunted by her hellish escape from the 2018 fire that razed thousands of houses, killed at least 85 people and destroyed her community of Paradise in 2018.

She left briefly — for a motel in Paradise, where she thought she might be safer. But work quickly brought Hoffman back to Chester, she said. She sobbed the whole ride home.

“I didn’t want to have to run for my life again,” the 39-year-old said Tuesday, as the Dixie Fire burned across the lake from her town. “I can’t do it again.”

Dozens of families forced from Paradise and surrounding communities about three years ago have resettled in small towns around Lake Almanor, about 40 miles away, finding comfort in stunning wilderness and shared pain among survivors. But as California’s biggest blaze of the year raged toward that haven this week, they relived a nightmare. Their repeat trauma underscores wildfires’ growing, climate change-fueled threat in the West.

Publish : 2021-07-29 13:00:00

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