Paradise on Fire—Update Seven Months Later

(Charlie is driving some long stretches on this leg of his travels and his schedule is packed with marvelous visits. This provides a great opportunity to share the following update and reflection from Deon Mangan, a regular follower of A Sign of Hope, who sent this piece to Charlie earlier this month. ~Beckita)

I wrote a first-person account of the Camp Fire in, “Paradise on Fire,” posted in December 2018 here. This is an update on the progress and recovery in Paradise and Magalia since December.

It has been nearly 7 months since the Camp Fire devastated Paradise, Magalia, and surrounding areas in northern California. I wanted to let you know what’s been happening here since then. The first section gives some pictures and description of the community. The second section describes my personal journey since the last post.

This is largely a story of recovery, sadness, grief, loss, and with the spring and Easter, sprouts of grasses and flowers signaling new growth, life, and hope. The recovery is progressing, slowly, but surely.

Part One: Physical Community Changes

The first phase of recovery, with an official description found here, was led by the “U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) to inspect your property and remove any hazardous waste that may pose a threat to human health, animals, and the environment, such as batteries, herbicide, pesticide, propane tanks, asbestos siding, paints, and e-waste. Phase I is automatic and includes both residential and commercial properties destroyed by the fire.”

This phase seemed to take so long, and even though it is understandable given the scope of the task, people’s lives were on hold. Driving past the same untouched destruction everyday was such a depressing and soul-wrenching experience. It was impossible to see progress being made. It just felt that we were all forgotten.

Once this stage was completed and the winter/spring rains subsided in mid-March, then the cleanup of the properties began in earnest. The first step in cleaning up the fire debris is to remove the burned trees. Some of the trees are very large and required cranes to remove the trees safely.

California lost 18.6 million trees in 2018 to the fires statewide. This was down from a high of 62 million in 2016 and 27 million in 2017.

After the trees are cut down and removed from the lot, then the heavy cleanup requires crews, heavy equipment, and a lot of trucks.

All the debris is loaded into large trucks that take the debris to several sites in northern California: Redding, Red Bluff, Oroville, and further south. Once the lots are clear there is just the red iron-rich soil, or a layer of protective covering, and all the evidence of the home or business are gone.

The Town of Paradise reports on its webpage (found here with succeeding updates) on June 5, 2019, that over 1/3 of the 10,000 lots have been cleared of debris (3,786), and 40 building permits have been issued.

The updated population of residents in Paradise is now 5,000 people. Before the Camp Fire there were 27,000 residents in the Town of Paradise and another 25,000 in Magalia, Paradise Pines, De Sabla, Lovelock, Nimshew, Stirling City and above.

Road Hazards

There are hundreds of trucks on the roads of Paradise and Magalia every day. The first week of May we had a flat on our Toyota Corolla, then last week on the Ford Focus, then two days later two tires on the Corolla again. A co-worker of my husband had a flat on his motorcycle and then two flats on his jeep. They were all from screws on the road from the debris removal. We have not been driving on any off road or debris strewn areas, just the regular roads of Paradise and Magalia. While we were getting the tires fixed in town, generously done for free by a local tire store, there were long lines of other customers needing repairs. Another tire store in town said its road hazard repair business increased ten times over last month.

While there are frustrations at this stage with increased truck traffic, stoppages in traffic flow, and tire issues, at last everyone can see that progress is being made to clear away the debris that was once our beloved homes, active businesses, and treasured cars and trucks.

In the Town of Paradise 90% of the homes (about 10,000) were destroyed, so there are about 1,000 homes standing, scattered over the large town area. One or two here, and another one there. In town are two supermarkets, two gas stations, three pharmacies, and lots of food trucks, but no restaurants open currently.

Water in Paradise

The challenge is with the Paradise Irrigation District (PID) water. All over the town are high levels of benzene, a known carcinogen. The first time this was discovered after a wildfire was after the Santa Rosa fire last year. The situation is far more complex and challenging in Paradise. At first, they thought the plastic pipes had melted, then they thought flushing the system would resolve it. However, they are finding different readings all over town and so many broken pipes that there is not an easy solution. They have reached out to agencies and experts all over the country without a clear solution. While they continue to investigate this health hazard to the Paradise community, some estimates are up to two years and an additional $300 million to fix the water system, not counting the current estimate of $2 billion to rebuild Paradise. This is also impacting the number of people wanting to return to the homes still standing in the community or their readiness to rebuild. Some families are getting by on bottled water in their homes. This good article from the Sacramento Bee explains the water situation in more detail.

So, PID is putting in water tanks at the businesses in town, large ones, and filling them up with clean water as often as needed. Starbucks’ 3,000-gallon tank gets filled every day. My husband, Mike’s office now reopened in Paradise has a 2,600-gallon tank that is filled once a week, and the large one at St. Thomas More is filled every week also.

Washing with water flowing through the pipes isn’t safe, so handwashing, and restrooms are not readily available. There are lots of porta potties in town. Some businesses use the non-potable water to flush toilets only. Hand-sanitizer or bottled water is used to wash hands. So, restaurants that need to wash dishes, pots, and pans, are just not viable currently. The local residents and all of the debris removal workers (about 1,500 in town each day) use the food trucks, or they go to one of the local markets with small concession areas for lunch.

Food trucks can have tasty options, but it is not ideal for every day eating out. However, while not a permanent solution, this has allowed a little “normalcy” to return to life in Paradise.

Families who live in Paradise either use bottled water for showers and baths or they take chances with the benzene. Due to its absorption through the skin, people are told to avoid hot water because it opens the pores and may increase the absorption.

Water in Magalia

The community of Magalia is on a separate water system through Del Oro Water. We have no problems with our water in Magalia. Immediately after the fire there was some benzene in the water, but after the system was flushed, the water has been fine ever since. Magalia has four restaurants open and, in a role-reversal, people are coming up to Magalia from Paradise to eat out these days. We also have a supermarket, three gas stations, a pharmacy, bank, post office, and Dollar General. For a small unincorporated community with 1/3 of the homes lost, we are doing pretty well.

Shopping in Paradise and Magalia

We are blessed to have supermarkets, pharmacies, a hardware store, a few auto parts stores, a Dollar Tree, and a couple of Dollar Generals in Paradise and Magalia. As of most recent reports, there are 200 businesses open in Paradise. However, if there are any other items needed by the residents of these communities there are two options: order online or go to Chico or Oroville, a 45-50-minute drive each way. This means that we have a fleet of delivery trucks making the rounds in Paradise and Magalia: UPS, Fed-Ex, and many new delivery services that we’ve never seen before. I’ve never seen so many delivery trucks in the years before the fire. The stores that have opened are serving the people living here during these difficult times, so we try to shop on the Ridge for as much as possible. Otherwise, we make shopping lists and go to Chico once or twice a week for the other things we need.

Good News in Paradise

All the schools in Paradise moved to Chico and Oroville for the remainder of this 2018/2019 school year. Paradise High School students graduated on the school property in Paradise the first week of June. We have a great-nephew who is graduating from Paradise High and a great-niece from Magalia who graduated last week in Chico. Several organizations got together and sponsored a Paradise High Prom with only a $5 charge per student. Everyone was invited. They had free prom dresses, hairstyling and makeup, tuxes for the young men, and they even recreated a façade of the Honey Run Covered Bridge, destroyed in the fire, as an entrance to the Prom. I heard it was a wonderful experience for the young people. This link will take you to some news coverage of the event.

For next year the Paradise High School will be turned into two schools, high school and junior high. The old junior high will become an elementary school for the time being. So, students will be able to stay on the Ridge and attend school. Many students from Magalia have had to make the commute to Chico every day. Even with buses, extra-curricular activities can make it a long day for parents and students doing the commute.

Sewer System in Paradise

Good news for the community of Paradise is that the Town has approved the first step toward a sewer system. Prior to the fire Paradise was known as the largest community in the country that did not have a sewage processing plant. All the homes and businesses in town currently have septic tanks and leach lines. This is a good step for the future of the new town.

Tragedy Brings Out the Best and the Worst in Us

I have been impressed at the patience, kindness, and generosity I’ve seen by the residents and the businesses back in Paradise and Magalia. They are inspiring and encouraging for us to persevere in the rebuilding of our communities. In contrast, there are a handful of stories I’ve heard over the past few weeks that make me just shake my head at the selfishness of a few.

On the lots that have been destroyed by fire, the cleanup process literally takes months, requiring coordination with all different government agencies, utilities, insurance companies, and debris removal companies. One family Mike and I know had a home in Paradise that burned, but they were looking forward to returning and rebuilding. PG&E had surveyed the property and said that most of the trees needed to be removed and they would do it. There was one large tree that was undamaged, and the property owners and PG&E both agreed to keep the tree. A few weeks later the family returned to their property. Not only was the large tree gone and all the wood, in addition, whoever took the tree down dropped it on their undamaged septic tank and destroyed it. So now, instead of returning to Paradise, this family may be moving to another community. Adding insult to the huge injury of losing their home, they now need to investigate this crime on their property in addition to managing the continuing efforts at cleaning up their property and working with the insurance company.

Another friend of ours became a widow in the months before the fire. Her home was lost in Paradise, but some metal closets remained on the property with her husband’s tools and other items. As our friend visited her property, she found the cabinets emptied, items dumped on the ground, and other things taken or broken. It’s as if everything is fair game. I guess people think that the owners are gone. It just feels so sad.

Another family we talked to had their home that survived the fire burglarized several times. All the drawers and cabinets were emptied, dumped on the floor, and vandalism was done to the home, not on just one occasion, but multiple times. They also are planning to move.

Please understand me, these stories are exceptional. Most people are moving ahead with things day by day and are not being victimized again, but some of the people are hit yet again. Fortunately, the stories of generosity, kindness, and brotherly love significantly outnumber the few evil and selfish actions. It just feels like each family who moves away leaves another hole in our community.

Beauty in the Rubble

An artist from Los Angeles, Shane Grammer, was inspired by stories from the Camp Fire to paint murals in the rubble. He received permission from the owners of the properties, and he had the understanding that the artwork would be going away in a matter of months. Grammer had experience working on illustrations in Disneyland, Universal Studios, and other locales. I took these pictures off Pearson Road in Paradise. There were more of the murals in town, but the lots have been cleared now. I heard there was one of Jesus in the remnants of a church, but I was not able to find it still standing. The pair of pictures are so that you can get a context of the art in the environment and then a close-up. There is an exhibit of photographs of these murals in Chico next week, called “Beauty from Ashes.” Here is an article on the work.

Changes to Our Lives

As I said earlier, my husband, Mike’s office moved back to Paradise the week after Easter. He is the Accounting and Finance Manager for a local medical group. They had been seeing patients in Chico since the week after the fire, and Mike had been working in Chico. In mid-April, doctors began seeing patients in Paradise again. Each doctor comes to Paradise once a week to see patients who are back in their homes in Paradise or the larger community of residents in Magalia. My 83-year-old mother was able to go in just fifteen minutes to see her doctor in Paradise, instead of the 45-minute drive from Magalia to Chico. This may seem like a small step forward, but it has a great impact, as it is a step toward normalcy again.

Life in Magalia

In contrast to the isolated homes in Paradise that survived, in Magalia, most of the upper end of the community survived. At the edge of the fire line, there are a few homes gone, but at a certain point almost all the homes survived all the way up the mountain to Butte Meadows at the summit. Where we live in Magalia, the neighborhood looks normal. It is about 2/3 mile in one direction to one edge of the fire and about 2 miles to the main fire line. When I go for my daily walks, praying my Rosary, the tall trees, homes, squirrels, and life around me appear the same as before the Camp Fire. When I drive a few miles to the grocery store, crossing that line, the devastation becomes the major feature of the landscape.

Part Two: My Journey in 2019

This year has been a challenging journey for me, personally, emotionally, and spiritually. I am blessed to be working through the trauma, tragedy, stress, and grief, but it has been a process.

I am prayerfully sharing this personal journey with you, because I think that many of us are, or will be going through trauma and loss in this upcoming time in the storm. If not you, then maybe your spouse, children, parents, siblings, co-workers, and friends will be going through a crisis. This has been one of the biggest in my life, which I share with the entire community I live in, worship in, and work in. If any of my experiences and insights might help someone else, then I am honored to share them with you.

In December, I was working for St. Nicholas’ Episcopal Church out of the St. John’s Episcopal Church facility in Chico.  The working situation was fine, but the commute through the devastation every day became overwhelming for me.  We moved back to our home in Magalia on December 8th, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, one month after the fire.  I drove from Magalia to Chico every morning and once I got two miles from home, I was into the fire devastation.  This continued until I got to the bottom of the hill, ready to enter Chico. So for about 35-40 minutes every morning and then again at night returning home, everywhere I looked was the destruction. 

In the immediate hours and days after the fire, many of us were “called up” to help our businesses, organizations, and churches. We went into what I refer to as “superhero” mode. We were needed and so our personal needs, physical well-being, health, sleep, etc. took a back door to the needs of others. During the weeks after the fire, I was working my parish job during the day, visiting shelters in the evenings, and family on weekends. It was hard to shut down, I just collapsed into bed, just to start again in the morning. One friend of mine who stepped in to lead an organization after the fire became very sick during the holidays. Instead of taking a day off and going to the doctor, he worked all day and went to the Emergency Room at night, so he could be back at work the next day. It is my experience, that at some point our candle being burned at both ends, burns out.

Mike and I traveled to Los Angeles to spend Christmas with our daughter. Before leaving, I caught a winter virus, but I was still healthy enough to travel. My daughter also had a winter bug when I arrived and I think the combination became a health crisis for me. I came back, after Christmas, and made it through two days of work and then I left for New Year’s weekend and was too sick to get out of bed. I kept trying to get up, but nothing was working. One week went by and then two. And I still wasn’t snapping out of it.

Eventually, I went to see my doctor. Besides feeling ill, I was also beginning to experience the effects of the trauma of the fire, the grief and sadness were hitting me big time. I was just about to turn 62 in March and I told my doctor I was considering retiring (Social Security) and taking some time to rest and recover. To my surprise, my doctor agreed with me. She said that after I felt better, and I would, I needed to do something else with my life. She said I was too young to just quit and stay home.

So, I began a new adventure. I was no longer working and having the daily demands of being a parish administrator. Letting go of the responsibility was very freeing for me and I was able to give myself permission to grieve. I was also relieved of driving through the devastation twice every day which was very important for my healing.

Long Winter Nap

Next, I went through what I refer to as my “long winter nap” phase. I was sleeping a lot, not leaving home much, not terribly depressed or weepy, just exhausted and resting.

During this time, I was feeling better from my cold viruses, but I didn’t feel like traveling out of my area in Magalia. The weather was wet and cold, not easy to take walks yet, and I stayed inside a great deal. Eventually, I had a variety of ailments that kept me even from attending Mass on Sundays for about 4 weeks in a row. My husband, Mike, was so patient with me at the time. He was supportive, encouraging, and trying to help me any way he could. I remember one time he asked me on a Saturday if I thought I would be feeling well enough to go to Mass the next day. I understood his question and I also understood that I did not know how I would feel the next day. Periodic migraines, muscle spasms in my back, etc. came without warning. Instead of me bringing Holy Communion to others, he was bringing it to me. Mike said when people asked how I was doing, he told them I had about two good days out of seven, and eventually one of the two would be on a Sunday.

Our parish, St. Thomas More, was meeting in Chico at Our Divine Savior Parish since a few weeks after the fire. One of our deacon’s wife began a Grief Support Group for women in the parish. It was for anyone grieving, but especially for us, St. Thomas More of Paradise parishioners, going through the Camp Fire loss. Initially, I was still not able to make these meetings. Like Mass, they were both being held in Chico and making the trip up and down the hill through the fire devastation was still too much for me. I would go to the grocery store a couple of miles away in Magalia. It was in the fire area but the store itself survived. One of these outings per week was as much as I could handle at this point.

As time progressed, I knew I was in the throes of grief, feeling some depression and spiritual desolation. Perhaps a clinician could tell which part was which, but I couldn’t; I was just living through it. I remember at one point I called my sister who also lives in Magalia. I hadn’t talked to her in a while and I just wanted to catch up. I asked her how she was doing and she said she had her good days and some days when she cried most of the day. It made me think. I hadn’t cried in a couple of months. That was not usual for me and especially in these emotionally charged times. That was a warning sign. I knew that if I was crying constantly that was probably not good but also not crying at all was very unusual.

I remember it was the beginning of March. Ash Wednesday was coming, my birthday, and spring. I was ready to be over whatever this was but it didn’t seem like there was anything I could do to make myself snap out of it. I was praying more than I had been during my “sleepy time.” I was sincerely asking God for help and direction. I was willing to get counseling help, if that would be best, or whatever I needed to heal. My prayer was only not to make me drive up and down through the devastation to get the help.

At one point, I remember the weather was cleared up enough for me to go for my walks in my Magalia neighborhood. While I walk, I usually pray my Rosary and, sometimes, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. This particular day was a Friday, maybe the first in Lent, and I was meditating on the 14th Station of the Cross while praying the 5th Sorrowful Mystery of the Crucifixion. I meditate on Jesus’ bloody and lifeless body being wrapped in a linen shroud and He is laid in the tomb and the large stone is rolled in front of the doorway and it is dark, and it is quiet and now we await the Resurrection.

And I had an epiphany regarding my circumstances. I realized that I was in the tomb with Jesus – emotionally, spiritually, I was cut-off, shut down, but waiting to rise with Him, when the time was right. I didn’t feel angry, resentful, frightened, just a certain peace, that the Resurrection would come eventually, and I would wait with Him until it was time. I guess I had reached Acceptance. I think that insight was the beginning of my healing.

I was able to go to Mass with Mike that Sunday. On the way down the hill, the first time in a month, I had some flashbacks of the fire that day. I also had a time when I began to cry and sob uncontrollably. But it was a release of the tension. It was the first time I’d cried in several months. The dam had burst and the healing was beginning.

Looking Back – Things I’ve Learned

Now looking back, I realize a few things about what I was going through. During the very difficult times for me, I just couldn’t make the trip up and down the hill through the fire devastation and I didn’t understand why. I wasn’t agoraphobic, afraid to go outside. But I just felt it was a barrier I couldn’t force myself to cross. What I can now see is that the trauma from the devastation was so great, that every time I drove through the area, it was re-traumatizing me. It’s like pulling a band-aid off a cut and it reopens the wound. Now imagine the wound is your whole arm or leg and every time you go through that space you rip open the wound again. I feel now that God was allowing me the time to heal enough that I could go through the fire area and not re-injure myself. I needed time for the wound to heal enough to handle it.

Now driving through the fire area, I see the progress being made in the debris removal. More lots are being cleared every week. I notice some places I hadn’t before that are lost. I’ve also been able to get off the main roads and see my friends’ and relatives’ lots, take pictures, and I am not overwhelmed by it now.

I was able to join the Women’s Grief Support Group in Chico at STM for the second half of the ten-week program. It was so good to be with other women and share. It also builds community which is part of what we need to connect with others and not be so alone. In this group, I remember realizing that I was never going to wake up and have the wish that the fire had never happened. The devastation was part of the world I now lived in. However, we can all heal from this wound and, like a broken bone, we can become strong again. And we can face this new future with God’s grace, providence, and love.

I am blessed now in my new role for St. Thomas More parish doing outreach to our parishioners in the Paradise and Magalia areas. This week I am beginning to facilitate a Women’s Grief Support Group of St. Thomas More parishioners at our church in Paradise, like the one I attended in Chico; this is for the women on the Ridge who couldn’t make it down the hill to Chico.

An additional insight is like that of my sister, Monique. “Monnie,” as we called her, was diagnosed in her early 40s with an aggressive Stage 4 Breast Cancer. They gave her at most 2 1/2 years to live and Monnie lived for 12. She was able to see her youngest daughter graduate high school and her older daughter get engaged. Anyway, Monnie told me, after 10 years or so with cancer, that she could now see that cancer had been a gift to her from God. It had shaped the woman she had become and she was grateful for the lessons she learned. In looking at the experience with the fire for me, I can see that God has given me the grace to go through this. I feel that with what I’ve learned and experienced, I may be better able to help others who experience trauma and loss. I feel God has helped to increase my compassion and I am grateful for these lessons and the gift.

St. Thomas More – Moving Forward

St. Thomas More Church had our first Mass on the Ridge, on Sunday, May 19th, with our Bishop Jaime Soto. There were about 380 parishioners in attendance, a little less than the total number from our four Masses on the weekends before the fire. There is a new Pastor being assigned to Our Divine Savior beginning July 1st. He will be serving ODS 75% of the time, and STM 25% of the time. We are hoping this means our weekly STM Mass will be in Paradise starting in July.

Personally, Mike has been invited to begin the second year of formation for the Diaconate. It is a wonderful journey for us. We are so blessed by the weekend Formation at Christ the King Retreat Center, the online classes through the University of Notre Dame STEP program, and the small group work with our deacon and wife couple leading our small group.

I am investigating online teaching opportunities, and I am excited to work with St. Thomas More as we reach out to the community just beginning to rebuild. The churches are already working more collaboratively and communicating with each other. We have advertised our Grief Support Women’s Group to any women on the Ridge who are interested and we are looking at forming a group of women to help serve in different ways in the community. Our first hot lunch program in Paradise since the fire is set to start at Paradise Lutheran in June and several STM women want to help serve there also.

I think the Town of Paradise will be a long time coming back, requiring years of work. I also think it will be a different town and St. Thomas More will be a different parish. But it is exciting to think about the possibilities and to pray about how we can respond to God’s call. One of the most wonderful moments in recent memory for me was when Bishop Soto consecrated the Most Blessed Sacrament and I thought, “He’s here. Jesus is here!” This was the first time that we had Mass and the True Presence on the Ridge since the fire in November 2018. Now, we have had the Blessed Sacrament reserved again, in the Tabernacle at St. Thomas More, for the sick, and for visits of Adoration. It is wonderful to have Our Lord home again!

 The Greatest Loss

One more personal note: my biggest loss, over the last seven months, is not being able to go to daily Mass. I miss it more than I can say. Now, I look for opportunities to attend in Chico on my weekly shopping trips or when I have meetings. There’s a 7:30 AM at one parish, an 8:00 AM at another parish, and a 6:00 PM most evenings. So, I try to plan my visits so that I can go to one more Mass. There’s also an Adoration Chapel so I can stop in and pray if the timing for Mass doesn’t work out. We were able to go to the Triduum, receiving Our Lord three days in a row. We had another reason to visit Chico for two mornings in a row and we were able to attend Masses. Last week I made two trips to Chico in one day, just so I could go to Mass that evening. If someone told me a year ago that I would not be able to go to daily Mass and a weekly Mass would be 45-50-minute drive each way, I would have had a hard time believing it. My one suggestion to each of you, if you get the chance, go to one more Mass, receive the Lord one more time, spend a few minutes (or an hour) in Adoration as often as you can. Imagine, just for a minute, if this was taken away from you tomorrow. How would you feel? How much would you miss it? This is not to make you feel guilty, just realize what a gift you have in the Mass and the Blessed Sacrament. This is a gift to treasure.

I was shocked and saddened at the attack in Sri Lanka at Mass on Easter. Afterward, the Catholic Cardinal, in order to protect his people, had them stay home and watch Mass on TV. I do not question his discernment to keep the people safe, but did you think there would ever come a time when the church leadership would tell people to stay away from their churches? We live in rapidly changing times; make the most of each day and moment.

In Conclusion

People from our parish who have lost their homes and are still trying to cope in this transition, say the same thing, “I just want to come home.” Please pray for their strength, perseverance, healing, and discernment about what to do with their lives. Many are trying to hang in there to return to St. Thomas More and Paradise. Others are trying to decide if it’s time to begin again with a new parish and a new community. Many have chosen to move on and are now living in other communities, many all across the United States. This is right for them but there is sadness and loss for them and the parish. I ask for your continuing prayers for the people of Paradise and Magalia. This is going to be a long haul, years of recovery and transition for both communities.

I have two personal prayer requests for women friends of mine who went through the fire and have recently been diagnosed with cancer. First, Pastor Ann Sullivan from St. Nicholas’ Episcopal Church was diagnosed with cancer and has just begun chemotherapy. I worked for this wonderful woman for seven years at St. Nicks’. She led the small Episcopal community on the Ridge and started the hot meal program throughout Paradise. Pastor Ann is married with three teenage children and the family moved to Chico after the fire. The Camp Fire complicated getting treatment; her doctor left the area due to the fire evacuation and she needed a new doctor and then there were referrals and tests which took six months to complete so she could get the diagnosis. Pastor Ann has given me permission to ask for prayers for her. Another friend of mine has been recently diagnosed with an aggressive cancer and has surgery next week. Please pray for her and her family as well.

God’s blessings to all of you and your families. Thank you for your prayers and support through this challenging time. It is great to be in a community with people of faith, like each of you. It makes these times easier to handle.

62 thoughts on “Paradise on Fire—Update Seven Months Later

  1. Wow, Deon! Wonderful update and outstanding reflection on the panoply of emotions inherent in all the phases of navigating the ravages of the fire as well as the ongoing recovery from the blaze as you tended to and continue to care for others while you honor your own need for healing, rebuilding and establishing a new equilibrium. Thanks for sharing your heart with us.

    Your piece is filled with lessons for navigating the unknown.

    Praying for you, your family, your intentions and for all the folks who continue to recover and rebuild after the fire.

    Liked by 10 people

    1. Thank you for the reminder.

      I am remiss and sad as I had forgotten your event. I am sorry. The recovery can be perhaps more traumatizing than the event.

      This article is notable as a friends family home caught on fire this morning and all lives are safe due to a neighbor across the street noticing the flames. The homeowner was at breakfast, smelled smoke but attributed to a ‘yard burning’ of wood combustibles. In your peice, I had not thought of theft and other destruction of property.



      I had intended on publicizing this video of AG Barr presenting his mission statement for upcoming tenure. It is fitting, as he is eloquent and bluntly presents his case. I love the nypd Emerald Society Pipe Band whom led the introduction and his testimony to the love of the Pipes.

      ?… I wonder… does the fbi have a Pipe band? Hymm…

      From a local stand point, this is a big boost to the morale of Police.

      Liked by 7 people

  2. Thank you for this amazing update on the fires and the area. Continuing to pray for all those who are continuing to come thru these terrible difficulties. I also keep in prayer your friends recently diagnosed with cancer. May God Bless You All.

    Liked by 7 people

      1. Going pretty well, Beckita. I have now finished two of the eight chemo-treatments prescribed for me. The first was a bear…..this one….not so bad. So I’m plugging along and doing my best…tackling my spiritual reading and praying my Rosary as my sometimes dizzy head permits me to do. I know Mother and our Lord understand my weaknesses some days at this point.

        I don’t know if you’ve been over to Fr. Z’s site in the last day…but he has an excellent article called “ASK FATHER: A soul in anguish about the state of the Church. Wherein Fr. Z rants .” Check it out everybody…it’s so well written for these times. Love to you all and thank you for the continued prayers. We can do this!!!! (who’s this here we?) 🙂

        Liked by 4 people

  3. Deon, thank you for your dedication to being a sign of hope by sharing your personal journey which gives us invaluable insight and graces. I will pray for your intentions. ❤

    Liked by 7 people

  4. Just an amazing piece DEON…you’ve wrotten about it so well I feel I was there…praying so hard for you all..hey, ur always welcome here in norwalk ohio..God bless you all so much for what you’ve endured..xoxoxoxoxoxo TNRS ASOH

    Liked by 6 people

  5. Navigating the unknown and waiting in the tomb with Jesus for the time of Resurrection with Him. I will be thinking on these pictures. Thank you, Deon and Bekita.

    Liked by 8 people

  6. More on the Israel Folau case

    The truth wins when it come to word of God!. The devil cannot fight against the word of God.

    NSW Rugby chair calls for settlement on Folau saga – The Sydney Morning Herald

    There are rumors he will get a very good settlement. The Christian organization stopped the fund after surpassing 2.2 millions as Rugy Australia is panicking.

    The left winged media and bullies started their own fund to counter but died out after reaching 25k which means the lefties are communist indeed. They dont have a big generous heart and expect others to donate. This is what Sundance from Consergative Tree house talks about.

    Liked by 4 people

  7. I watched this entire video and The President talks about standing for religious freedom, for life, liberty and babies and the right to live to get back up and fight rather than survival of the fittest as in the testimony of the young girl ar 30mins.

    He gives thanks to the Creator and promises to bring back America and the world back to God. He says our rights dont come from the politicans they come from the Creator. Above all in America we dont worship Government we worship God. He pledges alliance to God to save the babies and bring the world back to Him. President values life and hence he doesnt like 6o go to war but use other means to accomplish his goals.

    I just love this guy and Obama did nothin just a con artist smooth talker loved by the mad world!

    I was forced out of my school whatapp group most folks in the USA couldnt stand to see me support POTUS so I started an alternative free speech whatapp group we are just 12 members. They really liked what I posted and some said I had a great heart but I seem boarded and need a new Job..Once I shared the below I think they were unsettled and some said I need to tone down. I said it’s ok if people leave but I need to save ever soul possible rather than trying to be a star of the debate group. So I shared below followed by the warning and today the above video frkm POTUS validating the Loreto prophecy.

    The warning is an illumination where every person will see the state of their Soul as God sees it. Each person will know instantly where they lie with regards to the Creator. It will start out by an event in the skies like 2 stars colliding that will draw out everyone in freight but everyone will then have a mini judgment a chance to reconcile and purify.

     Many people who despise God believing he doesnt exist will not change they will despise even knowing now He exist and with more spite. They will choose for the world to suffer as it doesnt align with their views. They will be a part of the anti God.

    The second camp is majority of folks the luke warm folks those that are more concerned for materialistic things they kind of believe but prefer to be on the fence. They will be terrified initially but will fall back and doubt after time of grace elapses. Only few or them will join the ones who believe.

    BTW I’m in the lukewarm camp even though I love God. I have my own struggles and failures but I get back up and fight.

    Be a  source of love and hope for others and take the next right…(waiting to introduce them to Charlie…if they dont leave)

    Liked by 5 people

    1. @Josh: Your story of developing your own WhatsApp reminds me a little of John Doyle at the youtube channel “Heck Off, Commie”. Have you heard of him? I don’t know that he is Catholic, but he’s a little like John Paul Watson just younger and not British. Thank you for sharing your struggles to overcome your lukewarmness. Well done!

      Liked by 4 people

    2. Josh doesn’t seem like ur in the lukewarm camp…

      I ran into this young man at…believe it or not…hair cutting/styling place…

      he wore A Beautiful Gold Cross of Christ…I could have been his mom but I applauded him for not being afraid to wear a cross. .

      he looked at me and said…”I’ll never be ashamed Of wearing Jesus…and you…Keep Him close to your heart!” He so heartened me…so young..actually he resembled Charlies angel description. ..but that’s my imagination a play…long story short..I gave him a scapular and pmt card and told him about Charlie Johnston with a t…

      told him the story of how you have to have cheese on a cheeseburger or its just not a cheeseburger and you have to put a “t” in Johnston or its just not Charlie…he liked that 🤗

      God bless you, Josh…keep touching souls…one soul at a time…you matter 🤗😇😘

      Liked by 6 people

  8. Thank you Deon for sharing your experiences and insights!!

    There is so much wisdom in your words! I so needed to hear your story right now. It is already helping me to evaluate things in my life and make changes I need to pursue. Thank you.

    I just prayed a “Hail Holy Queen” for all of you and for the special intentions of your friends with cancer. All of you will continue to be in my daily prayers.

    I know that God has great plans for you and your community. Please keep us posted!!

    Liked by 8 people

    1. Addition: I was just watering my flowers and it occurred to me that the fire and devastation you are all experiencing physically must be similar to the spiritual devastation that an Abortion Clinic does to a community.

      Liked by 7 people

      1. Thank you to all of you for your prayers. That is what the parish and community need most. We are blessed to be in the recovery, but it is clear to see that this is for the long term. I am grateful to have this community and support; it helps to keep things in perspective.

        Yes, Littleoneinpa, seeing the devastation seems to me like our culture and society with the false veneer wiped away, and what’s left is the stark reality of life without a relationship with God. Hopefully, our prayers and the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary will bring true healing and recovery to our country and loved ones.

        God bless all of you here and your loved ones. Deon

        Liked by 12 people

  9. Elizabeth Warren, who came into this world 70 years ago, just celebrated her birthday.

    The headline seems like a joke story in The Onion. Sadly, it’s no joke.

    She must be “off” mentally to be capable of ignoring her conscience regarding baby murder, CHOOSING to remain blind to this obvious hypocrisy. What an insane, deplorable, and shameful way to celebrate her own birth. Is she deliberately being shocking and radical, or is she just really nuts?

    Liked by 6 people

    1. @Patrick Daniel: It is almost impossible to fathom BUT it is possible that she truly believes (like many Nazis involved in the Final Solution) that what she does is good. Sin by its very definition is insanity.

      Liked by 5 people

      1. Hi Islam.

        I just don’t know. So few politicians are sincere and altruistic. Most focus on two things: money and votes to stay in power. Can I qualify it by saying this is the case mostly with those on the Left?

        Fortunately, it’s nearly impossible for folks like us to get into the heads of these people. I guess there is no point, though, because at least they clearly make their positions known.

        Liked by 5 people

        1. @Patrick Daniel: “…at least they clearly make their positions known…” What is difficult to discern is who is on the Left even with an R by their names. Justin Amash, Paul Ryan, etc… are a few recent examples.

          I less and less surprised that the same revelations in the hierarchy are forthcoming every day. Like in the time of the Arian Heresy, the number of bishops who held fast to the traditions could be counted on one hand. It was the laity in union with the very few faithful bishops who manned the deck of Peter’s Barque. Heave ho! Patrick Daniel, heave ho!

          Liked by 5 people

        2. Thanks Linda and Islam is Islam. For me It is better to err on the side of caution and to be honest that the road to salvation is suffering and to identify with them that I am not perfect but am willing to fight back it is honest and gives them hope as well.

          I love this song.

          Liked by 1 person

  10. Thank you for writing this, Deon.Continued prayers for you and your family, and I will also pray for Pastor Ann and your other friend.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. I’ve been following this whole food issue intently for some time now, and this is only one facet of the challenges our food chain/supply is facing. It’s a very real thing not on the vast majority of consumer radars yet. Yet. Think we’ve seen crazy? Imagine the grumbling masses of America, masses with little to no self-control as it is when it comes to so many things.

      Yes, prayer and fasting. Also, discipline the mind and deny the flesh. As much as humanly possible.

      Liked by 6 people

      1. I’ve been watching as well, MP. I think this particular development concerning our food supply from Midwest farming is a crisis all its own brought on by weather… a harsh winter that drew out into springtime and has been followed by the devastating storms. Remember the “knee high by the 4th of July” growing phrase? Not by a long shot this year… and that from crops that remained planted and growing. This brings to mind one of the Volumes containing the mystical messages to Anne a lay apostle. Bishop O’Reilly chose to hold off on the release of Volumes 5 & 8 due to their sensitive nature. In one message, Jesus gently asked us, in essence, to be willing to offer up the sacrifice of scarcity of food for the sake of the Kingdom.

        These are the kinds of things to think about when we consider tending to those around us when the going gets especially tougher. I see God is disciplining us in many ways and this very much looks like one way of prompting people to pay attention to Him. Too, I recall many a saint who did all they could with those around them and when the soup pot looked empty, a heartfelt plea kept the stew coming til all were fed. Lots to ponder and trust, not fear, will allow the Lord to carry us through. From St. Faustina’s Diary from the Lord: I am Love and Mercy itself. When a soul approaches Me with trust, I fill it with such an abundance of graces that it cannot contain them within itself, but radiates them to other souls (1074).

        Liked by 6 people

        1. Yes, the hour was late, so that was little more than a fragmented thought bubble from me. No doubt the storm and flooding damage has seriously assailed the Midwestern food basket, making it a budding crisis all its own. I was thinking in less specific terms of our food chains/supply, –– it’s getting assailed on all sides. I don’t say this to be alarming, just observing the verifiable facts.

          One can listen to the various media outlets concerning any number of angles on this topic, or simply observe from a first hand perspective. What I observe is a major challenge in the making, though many Americans don’t give it much thought. Shelter, water, food… it’s pretty basic to human survival. Throw in a serious breakdown anywhere in the food chain, and we’ve got big time challenges.

          The average American might go to the supermarket and get lulled by the sight of so much abundance. Supermarkets, already working on paper thin margins, are having to get increasingly creative to hide the realities. Obviously the cost of our groceries keeps going up. Those shopper savings cards? Anyone notice how skimpy the savings are getting. Last three trips for me, I saved less than 2%. Then there’s the shrinking product game. I’ve noticed some products shrink in size/quantity not once this year, but twice, and in at least a couple instances they’ve shrunk three times. Ironically, we still continue to waste a staggering amount of food.

          Yes, the alarming crop issue in the Midwest. Remember the recent (and in some cases lingering) cold and snow that decimated millions of head of livestock in the same area? This is just the Midwest, mind you. Really, there are attention-getting stories of similar import from every region in America, from the large ‘food basket’ in California to all the major fishing ports to the simple and tiny bee that is disappearing from the landscape. Close to home, Yuma is THE major producer of lettuce for the entire country, and I’ve finally lost count of how many times the crop has been assailed by e-coli issues.

          Prior to WWII, small, mostly family run farms accounted for over 80% of our food produce. Now, it’s mostly big agri-business, and don’t event get me started on how their methods have decimated the nutritional value of food and adversely impacted the environment. To say nothing of the foreign concerns snapping up our farmland and livestock ranches at an alarming rate. Obviously, nothing good will come from any of that, because the basic human instinct (really little more than animal instinct for too many) in these times is to dominate and hord. Which means the likes of you and I are mostly left out in the cold, unless we do what we know must be done. Live as authentic Catholic/Christians in all circumstances.

          Oh, how much of an increasing beating we’re taking right now on so many fronts, but I am confident that we will truly express to the world the quality of being Catholic/Christian (i.e.- not only will we joyfully witness to the true value of suffering, but we will thrive in the most meaningful and lasting ways).

          We don’t have to play the “what if” game, but that doesn’t mean we can’t give ourselves over to Our Lord in order that He, Who can do all things, can surely guide and use us as He will. Whether that entails something as simple as catching a fish or baking a wee loaf of bread for those in need, going out to gather a few small fishes and loaves into baskets for the community, or having the faith that God will feed the masses with that collection to overflowing,. As you like to say, we can really do this. With Our Lord’s help, we really can.

          Liked by 6 people

          1. Yes, MP. Been watching all these details to which you refer come to pass. A HUGE benefit to the potential implosion of the big agri-business market could well be amplified with a breakdown in production of most of what lies in the center aisles of the grocery stores… you know, all that processed, boxed stuff, chock-full of every imaginable preservative and additive from “natural” flavors to 29 names for sugar tossed into the box to induce blood sugar rises and crashes, creating cravings for more. Living off the land again would be so healthy!

            Beautiful ending to your further reflection, MP. Amen. Amen.

            Liked by 4 people

            1. “Center aisles.” Exactly. One only needs to recall the pint-sized corner (family run) grocers from our youth, and how happy our memories of those days. We certainly not only survived but thrived, even in lean times. Can’t speak for all, and I certainly don’t like to provide composites of what others are saying elsewhere, but can share what has worked for me.

              1. Eat simpler.
              2. Cut out the sugar, processed foods and carbs to the greatest degree possible. Do it right now.
              3. Make smaller batches and eat all the leftovers.
              4. Try only the produce aisle, dairy fridges, meat counter, bakery. Organic is good, but hard to tell what’s real there. OK, I sometimes divert for cold cuts, but this is basically where the essential stuff is. Depending on your store’s layout, you may have to wander around and make nice with the other shoppers. I say “make nice,” because many folks are ill-tempered these days. Mick, might be able to cut that list to the bone, being more of a self-sufficient farm girl and all.
              5. More pure water consumption, but even here I’ve managed to acclimate to 100-115+ temp treks in the desert with very little. Amazing what we can train our minds/bodies to do with practice and time.
              6. SteveBC has already outline the proper posture/attitude for more challenging times.
              7. Above all, trust God and be patient with yourself, but I can’t stress enough to get moving in this direction (or the prescribed version God is prompting you to) now. Do it now.

              Liked by 7 people

              1. All good, MP. It’s true: “Amazing what we can train our minds/bodies to do with practice and time.” This, for me, hearkens back to my Peace Corps days when we not only visited a third world country, but actually lived in country for 2+ years with our newfound friends. Just as Charlie experienced on his pilgrimage journey, we discovered it didn’t take long to adapt to living with the very little we truly needed. Actually, I found it more culture shocking to ease back into life in the US after we returned from Africa and our three months of living the vagabond life in Europe. We had purchased a VW bug and a simple tent to travel all the European continent and everything we had was stuffed into a backpack, smaller than the size of CJ’s. I may have already shared this, but the European camp area owners no longer charged us to rent space in November of 1977 ‘cuz they told us we were crazy for sleeping outdoors then.

                As you say, MP, no need to fear. What’s the use of it anyway? But there is value, I think, in developing some mental toughness, and prayerfully so, about the willingness to forego so many pleasures that we now have. Perhaps one of the greatest surprises will be is the sense of freedom when we’re detached from what we really don’t need. It’ll be so especially worth it with a world in the process of being renewed!

                Liked by 3 people

        2. Oh my gosh Beckita. .we have corn fields in our back yard and michael just noticed that last night. .he said, “Linda, these corn rows are not at all knee high and it’s almost 4th of July!!!”

          Liked by 1 person

        3. MP and Beckita, I also think this is shaping up to be another crisis where people will have the choice whether to be selfish or giving. If we here in the USA have food shortages verging on famine, conditions in other countries (many of which rely on US food crops) will be much more difficult. Many of those people will starve to death if we do nothing but serve ourselves.

          If we are to live in a New Christian World, we have to live it in the present moment in order to get there. This will mean that we here in the US may have to learn (or Choose) to cut our already low food intake in order to bring succor to other countries in much worse shape.

          I can’t imagine a much better and (potentially) grace-filled crisis response than everyone hungry but nobody starving, because we choose to share even when in crisis ourselves.

          The same goes if we get several years of deep cold as the sun’s energy fades. We may need to ship our energy to other countries without enough energy to keep themselves alive, even as we ourselves face deep cold and our own spot shortages, and we may get no money in return, only(!) gratitude.

          I believe we will have a number of such crises in the years ahead. If we respond selfishly, the world will be a dark place of division, many deaths, anger, hatred, and worse. If we respond with generosity even as we suffer, the world will unite and solve each crisis with joy.

          I like to think we will all choose the latter approach, but until we are actually faced with these crises and actually choose, we won’t know how it will all go. Fortunately or unfortunately, I believe we will have a number of such crises, so we will get a lot of practice and get better as we go.

          Liked by 4 people

          1. So true, Steve. The best of what you describe draws God, like a magnet, to our weaknesses… and His Presence drawn down in this way brings Holy Spirit power that inspires solutions to problems so far beyond what we could possibly imagine on our own. Oh may we listen… and act. Oh may we BE Love… near at home and far beyond, geographically, and far beyond our own personal comfort… both n.o.w. and into the future. He knows our ardent desire to serve; He knows we’re trying.

            Liked by 3 people

  11. What can I say other than the gift of our humanity is precious and the good times as well as the deep struggles are all worth it somehow as long as align it all with our great King, Lord and Savoir, Jesus Christ. God bless you Deon!

    Liked by 6 people

  12. Thanks for sharing, Deon. One of the things that struck me was your missing daily Mass. We are so blessed here in Memphis to have many opportunities for daily Mass. Three every day at my parish, and the same at another parish near us. Dear Lord, help me to appreciate this profound blessing!

    Liked by 2 people

  13. So much of the tragedy, trial, and tribulation experienced by Deon Mangan is expressed in this beautiful song by SuperChick: Beauty From Pain. Have you ever suffered under a pain that seems to be overwhelming and never ending?

    “Fear not, for I am with thee: turn not aside, for I am thy God: I have strengthened thee, and have helped thee, and the right hand of my just one hath upheld thee.” Ps. 27:1

    Liked by 3 people

  14. I had the very real pleasure of being at Charlie’s Charlottesville VA presentation . It was an amazing experience. The information Charlie shared about how to live our lives now and as the Storm increases were so helpful to hear in person. It was a transformative experience. I encourage anyone who can to attend one of Charlie’s talks. I have been a regular visitor to Charlie’s site for many years and this is the first time I have left a comment. I have done so because I felt so strongly about sharing my experience of Charlie’s talk.

    Liked by 7 people

  15. Thank you for sharing your journey, Deon. Truly amazing the extreme challenges you have faced and thank you for sharing the encouraging thoughts in the midst of such hardship. It is beautiful that Monnie lived longer than expected: I am sorry for your loss! But grateful for the blessings. Prayers for Pastor Ann and your other friend too. Blessings to you and prayers too.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Isn’t it great?! Beautiful morning prayer, Sean. In these days, I have been drawn, again and again, to Blessed Cardinal Newman’s poem, Lead Kindly Light:

      Lead, Kindly Light, amidst th’encircling gloom,
      Lead Thou me on!
      The night is dark, and I am far from home,
      Lead Thou me on!
      Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
      The distant scene; one step enough for me.

      I was not ever thus, nor prayed that Thou
      Shouldst lead me on;
      I loved to choose and see my path; but now
      Lead Thou me on!
      I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears,
      Pride ruled my will. Remember not past years!

      So long Thy power hath blest me, sure it still
      Will lead me on.
      O’er moor and fen, o’er crag and torrent, till
      The night is gone,
      And with the morn those angel faces smile,
      Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile!

      Meantime, along the narrow rugged path,
      Thyself hast trod,
      Lead, Saviour, lead me home in childlike faith,
      Home to my God.
      To rest forever after earthly strife
      In the calm light of everlasting life.

      Blessed Henry Cardinal Newman, pray for us throughout the Storm… keep us ever taking that one step enough for me, moment by moment, day by day.

      Liked by 3 people

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