by Jon Mooallem, NY Times
The fire was already growing at a rate of one football field per second when Tamra Fisher woke up on the edge of Paradise, Calif., feeling that her life was no longer insurmountably strenuous or unpleasant and that she might be up to the challenge of living it again.
She was 49 and had spent almost all of those years on the Ridge — the sweeping incline, in the foothills of California’s Sierra Nevada, on which Paradise and several tinier, unincorporated communities sit. Fisher moved to the Ridge as a child, married at 16, then raised four children of her own, working 70-hour-plus weeks caring for disabled adults and the elderly. Paradise had attracted working-class retirees from around California since the 1970s and was beginning to draw in younger families for the same reasons. The town was quiet and affordable, free of the big-box stores and traffic that addled the city of Chico in the valley below. It still brimmed with the towering pine trees that first made the community viable more than a century ago. The initial settlement was poor and minuscule — “Poverty Ridge,” some called it — until a new logging railroad was built through the town in 1904 by a company felling timber farther uphill. This was the Diamond Match Company. The trees of Paradise made for perfect matchsticks.
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