Residents Given Hazmat Suits for Return to Paradise

They were allowed back for first time since blaze
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 6, 2018 4:58 AM CST
Residents Given Hazmat Suits for Return to Paradise
In this photo taken Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018 Jennifer Christensen sorts through items found in a safe at the remains of her home in Paradise, Calif.   (AP Photo/Don Thompson)

Nearly four weeks after the devastating blaze leveled her California town, Jennifer Christensen was allowed to return to her home in Paradise, where the first thing she saw was her son's charred tricycle in the front yard. Christensen was among hundreds of residents who were allowed back into neighborhoods on the east side of town for the first time since the Nov. 8 blaze, which killed at least 85 people and destroyed about 14,000 homes. Eleven people are still listed as unaccounted for. "It's unbelievable. You know, I never thought it would happen to me," said Christensen, 34, surveying how little was left. She had moved to Paradise about a year ago and lived with a couple that were like grandparents to her son. "Everything I worked so hard for is gone."

Some residents have been allowed back into nearby communities in the fire zone, but Wednesday marked the first time residents of Paradise got to see firsthand what was left of their town of 27,000 people, which was hit the hardest by the blaze, the AP reports. Paradise Police Chief Eric Reinbold said that areas home to 4,700 people were reopened but it wasn't clear how many people were there. Residents returning Wednesday were given kits with gloves and hazmat suits and warned that they should not move back into homes until ash and hazardous waste have been cleared, and that rain could increase the risk of flash floods and mudslides. (This businessman gave $1,000 to every high school student and staff member in Paradise.)

(More California wildfires stories.)

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