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Two Months Later, Camp Fire Survivors Look For Clarity While Officials Look To Provide Answers

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Bob Mofitt / Capital Public Radio
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California lawmakers and FEMA officials met with local leaders in Paradise after a three-hour tour of the Camp Fire.

A bus full of state and local elected officials toured the Camp Fire burn scar in Butte County Thursday to talk recovery and funding.

The tour occurred as a steady stream of Paradise residents looking for help filed in and out of Town Hall picking up pamphlets and requesting paperwork.

Jeff Hamlet was not on the tour. He didn't need to be. His home was one of 13,972 destroyed by the fire. He was at Town Hall to get information about starting over.

"It's a bureaucratic mess right now,” Hamlet said. “I'm hoping for some guidance on how we can go: Whether we can rebuild, when we can rebuild, what the new codes are going to be, how long it's going to be, when's my property going to get cleaned."

According to Kevin Hannes with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, $60 million in federal money has already been spent in response to the fire, which includes trailers, housing, and economic assistance.

"Then we'll start on our public assistance process working with the communities to repair and replace damaged infrastructure,” Hannes said.

As to the question of when that will start?

“It's starting now,” Hannes said. “A lot of it rests on the debris mission and that's Cal OES and CalRecycle. That allows us to come in and do other things. But first we have to get debris removed and people housed."

The town of Paradise has asked the state for $100 million over the next decade to cover expected funding shortfalls for government services.

"It's obviously going to take a number of years for the town to rebuild and recover its tax base," says Gina Will, administrative services director for the city. "So, we're looking for some support and help."

She says Gov. Gavin Newsom's budget proposal includes an amount equal to three years of property tax revenues, which is helpful but insufficient.

A bipartisan group of legislators toured the area at the invitation of Asm. James Gallagher and Sen. Jim Nielsen. Gallagher said he was confident the tour and private meeting that followed would result in help for the people affected.

"Hopefully we're going to translate that into some good policy,” Gallagher said.

Besides the nearly 14,000 homes, Cal Fire lists 528 businesses and nearly 4,293 other buildings as also destroyed.

Town Hall was one of a few buildings along Skyway Road to remain standing.

Copyright 2019 Capital Public Radio