The Camp Fire in 2018 is, to date, the deadliest and most destructive in the history of the Golden State. 85 people lost their lives and the fire did an estimated $16.5 billion in damage. And while many across Northern California lost their homes and tens of thousands more were displaced from theirs, the town of Paradise, which sits about 90 minutes north of Sacramento in Butte County’s Sierra Nevada foothills, may have seen the worst of all of it.
After 17 days of battling flames, wind and smoke, firefighters finally reached 100 percent containment, but not before it partially or totally destroyed 95 percent of structures in the town. In 2010, the U.S. Census estimated the town’s population to be just under 27,000. A door-to-door count done in April 2019, five months after the fire, found that just 2,034 people still lived there.
But in the face of this unspeakable tragedy, and the seemingly insurmountable task of rebuilding an entire town from the foundation up, the residents of Paradise worked together as a community not only to help each other rebuild and replace what was lost in the fire, but to help each other heal, work through the trauma and plant a seed of hope that one day, the town of Paradise might resemble its namesake again and the people who live there will be able to look toward the future instead of focusing on the devastating past.
In his new documentary, “Rebuilding Paradise,” director Ron Howard shares what he gathered from the year he spent in Paradise, following its residents through the rebuilding and recovery process. The film weaves together stories both heartbreaking and uplifting from Paradise residents, firsthand video of people trying to outrun the flames and stunning archive footage of the fire that one might expect from a National Geographic production.
Today on FilmWeek, Larry Mantle talks with Ron Howard about the making of the documentary and his time spent in Paradise and with its residents in the months after the fire.
For more information on the film, including screening information, click here.
“Rebuilding Paradise” is out on Friday and you can see it in person at the Vineland Drive-In in the City of Industry, online at Laemmle’s Virtual Cinema or on video on demand via Google Play and Fandango Now.
Ron Howard, director of the new documentary “Rebuilding Paradise”; he is an actor, producer and Oscar-winning director whose credits include “Apollo 13,” “A Beautiful Mind,” “Frost/Nixon” and more; he tweets @RealRonHoward