On a bright spring afternoon in late April, roughly 75 people gathered at the first Camp Fire restoration weekend at a farm 20 miles southwest of Paradise, California. The small private farm, nestled near a sprawling cow pasture that reaches east toward the burn zone, was safe from the Camp Fire. But in Paradise, signs of the devastating fire remain: burned-out vehicles, long lines of debris-removal trucks snaking toward the highway, billboards of encouragement (and insurance company ads) for survivors, and posters thanking first responders.
After the 2018 Camp Fire ravaged the small forested town—leaving just 10% of homes standing—residents were left with the enormous task of rebuilding their community. For locals, that means rebuilding homes and businesses. But it also means ecological restoration of the scorched Sierra Nevada foothills.
Matthew Trumm, founder of the Camp Fire Restoration Project, hopes his project will do both.
Trumm’s friends own the farm where attendees of the restoration camp gathered for three days to launch the project, taking early steps in helping land and people recover from the deadly fires.
With the weekend camp, Trumm and a dozen other camp organizers wanted to bring people together to begin organizing for long-term recovery of Paradise. Activities provided training in regenerative design and ecological restoration, including a day performing permaculture projects at Pine Ridge School in Magalia, one of few schools left standing in the Camp Fire burn zone. On the final day of the camp, committees were formed to tackle ongoing needs to rebuild infrastructure for shelter, water, and energy.
I think that it's great that permaculture is being used in this manner. I hope even more, that in a fire-prone state, serious work is done to make buildings more fire resistant as part of the rebuilding process. I know that in a *really* bad fire, forethought won't give guarantees, but having looked at the aftermath of the fires in Fort McMurray, Alberta, the houses there looked more or less like all North American suburban housing despite being a known high fire risk community. I believe we can do better!
Techniques that help to hold water in the soil will only help so much in a climate known for multi-year droughts. But that doesn't mean they shouldn't be used, as it has been proven that trees can generate rain and they can keep an area cooler and the humidity higher and sometimes that's the difference between a catastrophic out of control fire, and one that can be stopped or diverted.