One year after California’s deadliest wildfire, many still don’t have a place to call home

Kim Coulon lived in a “cute little apartment” in the town of Paradise, California, with her 16-year-old son. Then on the morning of Nov. 8, 2018, everything changed. In the span of a few hours, the deadly Camp fire blazed across the mountain ridge and burned nearly the whole town to the ground. 

“It was like a little treehouse to me,” Coulon said of her rental. “It disintegrated.”

Now a year later, she’s living with her son and her boyfriend in a 24-foot RV in a co-worker’s driveway. They’ve been stuck there in Durham, a town not far from Paradise, since July. Before that, they were in another co-worker’s driveway in nearby Chico. 

“I feel like I’m in a coffin,” Coulon said of the RV last month. She didn’t have renter’s insurance so she doesn’t have enough to afford another place in the area. Butte County already had a low housing vacancy rate ― around 1%-2% ― and that was before more than 18,000 homes burned. 

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Camp Fire, Hill Fire and Woolsey Fire sweep across California
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Camp Fire, Hill Fire and Woolsey Fire sweep across California
THOUSAND OAKS, CA - NOVEMBER 09: The Woolsey Fire burns towards Paramount Ranch on November 9, 2018 in Agoura Hills, California. (Photo by Matthew Simmons/Getty Images)
This photo taken from video provided by CBS2/KCAL9 shows a wildfire burning in Camarillo, Calif., Thursday afternoon, Nov. 8, 2018. Known as the Hill fire, it here has crossed U.S. Highway 101, at center right, potentially threatening hundreds of homes. (CBS2/KCAL9 via AP)
THOUSAND OAKS, CA - NOVEMBER 09: Horses are spooked as the Woolsey Fire moves through the property on Cornell Road near Paramount Ranch on November 9, 2018 inAgoura Hills, California. About 75,000 homes have been evacuated in Los Angeles and Ventura counties due to two fires in the region. (Photo by Matthew Simmons/Getty Images)
Medical personnel evacuate patients as the Feather River Hospital burns while the Camp Fire rages through Paradise, Calif., on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018. Tens of thousands of people fled a fast-moving wildfire Thursday in Northern California, some clutching babies and pets as they abandoned vehicles and struck out on foot ahead of the flames that forced the evacuation of an entire town. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
The massive plume from the Camp Fire, burning in the Feather River Canyon near Paradise, Calif., wafts over the Sacramento Valley as seen from Chico, Calif., on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018. Authorities in Northern California have ordered mandatory evacuations in a rural area where the wildfire has grown to 1,000 acres (405 hectares) amid hot and windy weather. (David Little/Chico Enterprise-Record via AP)
A home burns as the Camp Fire rages through Paradise, Calif., on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018. Tens of thousands of people fled a fast-moving wildfire Thursday in Northern California, some clutching babies and pets as they abandoned vehicles and struck out on foot ahead of the flames that forced the evacuation of an entire town. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
This photo provided by Nicole Kowalczyke shows a piece of a burned page that fell out of the sky in Chico, Calif., Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018, as the Camp Fire burns nearby. (Nicole Kowalczyke via AP)
Medical personnel evacuate patients as the Feather River Hospital burns while the Camp Fire rages through Paradise, Calif., on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018. Tens of thousands of people fled a fast-moving wildfire Thursday in Northern California, some clutching babies and pets as they abandoned vehicles and struck out on foot ahead of the flames that forced the evacuation of an entire town. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
People wear masks while walking through the Financial District in the smoke-filled air Friday, Nov. 9, 2018, in San Francisco. Authorities have issued an unhealthy air quality alert for parts of the San Francisco Bay Area as smoke from a massive wildfire drifts south, polluting the air. Officials say the thousands of structures in the town of Paradise, 180 miles (290 kilometers) northeast of San Francisco, were destroyed by the blaze that has charred 110 square miles (285 square kilometers). (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
THOUSAND OAKS, CA - NOVEMBER 08: Travis Lundgren, a street maintenance worker, uses a cooler of ice and water to help put out a flair up along Rancho Conejo Blvd. during the Hill Fire in Thousand Oaks, CA, on Thursday, Nov 8, 2018. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen/Digital First Media/Orange County Register via Getty Images)
PORTER RANCH, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 09: The Woolsey Fire is seen looking towards the west valley area on November 9, 2018 in Porter Ranch, California. About 75,000 homes have been evacuated in Los Angeles and Ventura counties due to two fires in the region. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
A statue rests amid a charred lot as the Camp Fire tears through Paradise, Calif., on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018. Tens of thousands of people fled a fast-moving wildfire Thursday in Northern California, some clutching babies and pets as they abandoned vehicles and struck out on foot ahead of the flames that forced the evacuation of an entire town. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
THOUSAND OAKS, CA - NOVEMBER 08: The Hill Fire burns in the hills east of Conejo Center Drive in Thousand Oaks, CA, on Thursday, Nov 8, 2018. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen/Digital First Media/Orange County Register via Getty Images)
Smoke from the Camp Fire, burning in the Feather River Canyon near Paradise, Calif., darkens the sky as seen from Highway 99 near Marysville, Calif., Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018. (AP Photo/Don Thompson)
A home burns as the Camp Fire rages through Paradise, Calif., on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018. Tens of thousands of people fled a fast-moving wildfire Thursday in Northern California, some clutching babies and pets as they abandoned vehicles and struck out on foot ahead of the flames that forced the evacuation of an entire town.(AP Photo/Noah Berger)
Smoke from wildfires burning in Northern California obscures the Sierra Nevada in this view from an airliner approaching Sacramento, Calif., Friday, Nov. 9, 2018. The director of the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services says fires across California have forced 157,000 people from their homes. (AP Photo/Gillian Flaccus)
Smoke from the Camp Fire, burning in the Feather River Canyon near Paradise, Calif., darkens the sky above the Butte College sig in Oroville, Calif., Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018. (AP Photo/Don Thompson)
A police officer mans a checkpoint in front of an advancing wildfire Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018, near Newbury Park, Calif. The Ventura County Fire Department has ordered evacuation of some communities in the path of the fire, which erupted a few miles from the site of Wednesday night's deadly mass shooting at a Thousand Oaks bar. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Smoke from the Camp Fire, burning in the Feather River Canyon near Paradise, Calif., darkens the sky Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018. (AP Photo/Don Thompson)
The Camp Fire rages through Paradise, Calif., on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018. Tens of thousands of people fled a fast-moving wildfire Thursday in Northern California, some clutching babies and pets as they abandoned vehicles and struck out on foot ahead of the flames that forced the evacuation of an entire town. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
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A charred animal rests on a roadside as the Camp Fire tears through Paradise, Calif., on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018. Tens of thousands of people fled a fast-moving wildfire Thursday in Northern California, some clutching babies and pets as they abandoned vehicles and struck out on foot ahead of the flames that forced the evacuation of an entire town. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
Flames consume a home as the Camp Fire tears through Paradise, Calif., on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018. A California fire official says a fast-moving wildfire in Northern California has destroyed structures and injured civilians. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
Medical workers move equipment from a makeshift emergency room while the Feather River Hospital burns as the Camp Fire rages through Paradise, Calif., on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018. Tens of thousands of people fled a fast-moving wildfire Thursday in Northern California, some clutching babies and pets as they abandoned vehicles and struck out on foot ahead of the flames that forced the evacuation of an entire town. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
The Camp Fire rages through Paradise, Calif., on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018. Tens of thousands of people fled a fast-moving wildfire Thursday in Northern California, some clutching babies and pets as they abandoned vehicles and struck out on foot ahead of the flames that forced the evacuation of an entire town. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
A home burns as the Camp Fire rages through Paradise, Calif., on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018. Tens of thousands of people fled a fast-moving wildfire Thursday in Northern California, some clutching babies and pets as they abandoned vehicles and struck out on foot ahead of the flames that forced the evacuation of an entire town.(AP Photo/Noah Berger)
A vintage car rests among debris as the Camp Fire tears through Paradise, Calif., on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018. Tens of thousands of people fled a fast-moving wildfire Thursday in Northern California, some clutching babies and pets as they abandoned vehicles and struck out on foot ahead of the flames that forced the evacuation of an entire town. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
Flames consume a building as the Camp Fire tears through Paradise, Calif., on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018. A California fire official says a fast-moving wildfire in Northern California has destroyed structures and injured civilians. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
The setting sun turns blood red as it peers through smoke from the Camp Fire in northern Calif., Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018. Tens of thousands of people fled a fast-moving wildfire Thursday in Northern California, some clutching babies and pets as they abandoned vehicles and struck out on foot ahead of the flames that forced the evacuation of an entire town. (AP Photo/Don Thompson)
A charred animal rests on a roadside as the Camp Fire tears through Paradise, Calif., on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018. Tens of thousands of people fled a fast-moving wildfire Thursday in Northern California, some clutching babies and pets as they abandoned vehicles and struck out on foot ahead of the flames that forced the evacuation of an entire town. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
Nurse Cassie Lerossignol hugs as coworker as the Feather River Hospital burns while the Camp Fire rages through Paradise, Calif., on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018. Tens of thousands of people fled a fast-moving wildfire Thursday in Northern California, some clutching babies and pets as they abandoned vehicles and struck out on foot ahead of the flames that forced the evacuation of an entire town. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
Medical personnel evacuate patients as the Feather River Hospital burns while the Camp Fire rages through Paradise, Calif., on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018. Tens of thousands of people fled a fast-moving wildfire Thursday in Northern California, some clutching babies and pets as they abandoned vehicles and struck out on foot ahead of the flames that forced the evacuation of an entire town. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
A police officer directs traffic at a checkpoint in front of an advancing wildfire Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018, near Newbury Park, Calif. The Ventura County Fire Department has also ordered evacuation of some communities in the path of the fire, which erupted a few miles from the site of Wednesday night's deadly mass shooting at a Thousand Oaks bar. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)
PORTER RANCH, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 09: The Woolsey Fire is seen looking towards the Oak Park area on November 9, 2018 in Porter Ranch, California. 75,000 homes have been evacuated in Los Angeles and Ventura counties due to two fires in the region. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
A home burns as the Camp Fire rages through Paradise, Calif., on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018. Tens of thousands of people fled a fast-moving wildfire Thursday in Northern California, some clutching babies and pets as they abandoned vehicles and struck out on foot ahead of the flames that forced the evacuation of an entire town. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
A wildfire comes down from a hilltop Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018, near Newbury Park, Calif. The Ventura County Fire Department has ordered evacuation of some communities in the path of the fire, which erupted a few miles from the site of Wednesday night's deadly mass shooting at a Thousand Oaks bar. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Flames consume a car and building as the Camp Fire tears through Paradise, Calif., on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
Plumes of smoke loom in the sky several miles away, seen behind a home in Thousand Oaks, Calif., as a wind-driven wildfire known as the Hill fire threatens the area late Thursday afternoon, Nov. 4, 2018. This is a few miles from the scene of Wednesday's mass shooting at the Borderline Bar in Thousand Oaks. (AP Photo/Kathleen Ronayne)
This photo provided by Nicole Kowalczyke shows smoke and ash from the nearby Camp Fire in Chico, Calif., Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018. (Nicole Kowalczyke via AP)
This photo provided by Nicole Kowalczyke shows heavy traffic with smoke and ash from the nearby Camp Fire overhead in Chico, Calif., Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018. (Nicole Kowalczyke via AP)
Smoke from the Camp Fire darkens the sky on the horizon as a bulldozer cuts a fire line to protect Butte College in Oroville, Calif., Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018. (AP Photo/Don Thompson)
THOUSAND OAKS, CA - NOVEMBER 08: A water dropping helicopter heads to fill up as the sun sets during the Hill Fire in Thousand Oaks, CA, on Thursday, Nov 8, 2018. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen/Digital First Media/Orange County Register via Getty Images)
THOUSAND OAKS, CA - NOVEMBER 08: A firefighter releases water dropping helicopters after they filled up near Conejo Center Drive during the Hill Fire in Thousand Oaks, CA, on Thursday, Nov 8, 2018. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen/Digital First Media/Orange County Register via Getty Images)
THOUSAND OAKS, CA - NOVEMBER 08: The Hill Fire burns in the hills east of Conejo Center Drive in Thousand Oaks, CA, on Thursday, Nov 8, 2018. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen/Digital First Media/Orange County Register via Getty Images)
THOUSAND OAKS, CA - NOVEMBER 08: The Hill Fire burns in the hills east of Conejo Center Drive in Thousand Oaks, CA, on Thursday, Nov 8, 2018. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen/Digital First Media/Orange County Register via Getty Images)
A home burns during the Camp fire in Paradise, California on November 8, 2018. - More than 18,000 acres have been scorched in a matter of hours burning with it a hospital, a gas station and dozens of homes. (Photo by Josh Edelson / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)
The Hill wildfire burns in the predawn hours of Friday, Nov. 9, 2018, seen from Agoura Hills in Southern California. The director of the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services says fires across California have forced 157,000 people from their homes. The fire near the Northern California town of Paradise has grown to nearly 110 square miles (285 square kilometers). (AP Photo/Haven Daley)
Smoke from wildfires burning in Northern California obscures the Sierra Nevada in this view from an airliner approaching Sacramento, Calif., Friday, Nov. 9, 2018. The director of the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services says fires across California have forced 157,000 people from their homes. The fire near the Northern California town of Paradise has grown to nearly 110 square miles (285 square kilometers). Another fire northwest of Los Angeles has been swept southward toward the ocean by strong Santa Ana winds. Evacuation orders were issued for residents of the beachside community of Malibu. (AP Photo/Gillian Flaccus)
Strong winds blow smoke horizontally over the the Santa Monica Mountains and the Pacific Ocean over the city of Malibu, far distance, in Southern California, seen from the Pacific Palisades area of Los Angeles Friday morning, Nov. 9, 2018. The director of the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services says fires across California have forced 157,000 people from their homes. The fire near the Northern California town of Paradise has grown to nearly 110 square miles (285 square kilometers). Another fire northwest of Los Angeles has been swept southward toward the ocean by strong Santa Ana winds. Evacuation orders were issued for residents of the beachside community of Malibu. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)
Firefighter Adrien Mahnke pauses while battling the Camp Fire as it tears through Paradise, Calif., on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018. Tens of thousands of people fled a fast-moving wildfire Thursday in Northern California, some clutching babies and pets as they abandoned vehicles and struck out on foot ahead of the flames that forced the evacuation of an entire town and destroyed hundreds of structures. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
Flames consume a car dealership as the Camp Fire tears through Paradise, Calif., on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018. Tens of thousands of people fled a fast-moving wildfire Thursday in Northern California, some clutching babies and pets as they abandoned vehicles and struck out on foot ahead of the flames that forced the evacuation of an entire town and destroyed hundreds of structures. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
Flames burn inside a van as the Camp Fire tears through Paradise, Calif., on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018. Tens of thousands of people fled a fast-moving wildfire Thursday in Northern California, some clutching babies and pets as they abandoned vehicles and struck out on foot ahead of the flames that forced the evacuation of an entire town and destroyed hundreds of structures. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
REFILE - QUALITY REPEAT An abandoned vehicle is seen on a road during the Camp Fire in Paradise, California, U.S. November 8, 2018. REUTERS/Stephen Lam
An American flag is seen at an engulfed car dealership during the Camp Fire in Paradise, California, U.S. November 8, 2018. REUTERS/Stephen Lam
PORTER RANCH, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 09: The Woolsey Fire is seen looking towards the west valley area on November 9, 2018 in Porter Ranch, California. About 75,000 homes have been evacuated in Los Angeles and Ventura counties due to two fires in the region. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
PORTER RANCH, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 09: The Woolsey Fire is seen looking towards the west valley area on November 9, 2018 in Porter Ranch, California. About 75,000 homes have been evacuated in Los Angeles and Ventura counties due to two fires in the region. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
THOUSAND OAKS, CA - NOVEMBER 09: Firefighters from various departments work to protect structures as the Woolsey Fire moves through the property on Cornell Road near Paramount Ranch on November 9, 2018 in Agoura Hills, California. About 75,000 homes have been evacuated in Los Angeles and Ventura counties due to two fires in the region. (Photo by Matthew Simmons/Getty Images)
THOUSAND OAKS, CA - NOVEMBER 09: A South Pasadena Fire Department engine fights the Woolsey Fire as it moves through the property on Cornell Road near Paramount Ranch on November 9, 2018 in Agoura Hills, California. About 75,000 homes have been evacuated in Los Angeles and Ventura counties due to two fires in the region. (Photo by Matthew Simmons/Getty Images)
THOUSAND OAKS, CA - NOVEMBER 09: The Woolsey Fire burns along the ridgeline off of Cornell Road near Paramount Ranch on the morning of November 9, 2018 in Agoura Hills, California. About 75,000 homes have been evacuated in Los Angeles and Ventura counties due to two fires in the region. (Photo by Matthew Simmons/Getty Images)
AGOURA HILLS , CA - NOVEMBER 09: Firefighters from various departments work to protect structures as the Woolsey Fire moves through the property on Cornell Road near Paramount Ranch on November 9, 2018 in Agoura Hills, California. About 75,000 homes have been evacuated in Los Angeles and Ventura counties due to two fires in the region. (Photo by Matthew Simmons/Getty Images)
THOUSAND OAKS, CA - NOVEMBER 09: Firefighters from various departments work to protect structures as the Woolsey Fire moves through the property on Cornell Road near Paramount Ranch on November 9, 2018 in Agoura Hills, California. About 75,000 homes have been evacuated in Los Angeles and Ventura counties due to two fires in the region. (Photo by Matthew Simmons/Getty Images)
AGOURA HILLS , CA - NOVEMBER 09: Firefighters from various departments work to protect structures as the Woolsey Fire moves through the property on Cornell Road near Paramount Ranch on November 9, 2018 in Agoura Hills, California. About 75,000 homes have been evacuated in Los Angeles and Ventura counties due to two fires in the region. (Photo by Matthew Simmons/Getty Images)
AGOURA HILLS , CA - NOVEMBER 09: Firefighters from various departments work to protect structures as the Woolsey Fire moves through the property on Cornell Road near Paramount Ranch on November 9, 2018 in Agoura Hills, California. About 75,000 homes have been evacuated in Los Angeles and Ventura counties due to two fires in the region. (Photo by Matthew Simmons/Getty Images)
AGOURA HILLS , CA - NOVEMBER 09: Firefighters from various departments work to protect structures as the Woolsey Fire moves through the property on Cornell Road near Paramount Ranch on November 9, 2018 in Agoura Hills, California. About 75,000 homes have been evacuated in Los Angeles and Ventura counties due to two fires in the region. (Photo by Matthew Simmons/Getty Images)
AGOURA HILLS , CA - NOVEMBER 09: Firefighters from various departments work to protect structures as the Woolsey Fire moves through the property on Cornell Road near Paramount Ranch on November 9, 2018 in Agoura Hills, California. About 75,000 homes have been evacuated in Los Angeles and Ventura counties due to two fires in the region. (Photo by Matthew Simmons/Getty Images)
AGOURA HILLS , CA - NOVEMBER 09: Firefighters from various departments work to protect structures as the Woolsey Fire moves through the property on Cornell Road near Paramount Ranch on November 9, 2018 in Agoura Hills, California. About 75,000 homes have been evacuated in Los Angeles and Ventura counties due to two fires in the region. (Photo by Matthew Simmons/Getty Images)
AGOURA HILLS , CA - NOVEMBER 09: Firefighters from various departments work to protect structures as the Woolsey Fire moves through the property on Cornell Road near Paramount Ranch on November 9, 2018 in Agoura Hills, California. About 75,000 homes have been evacuated in Los Angeles and Ventura counties due to two fires in the region. (Photo by Matthew Simmons/Getty Images)
THOUSAND OAKS, CA - NOVEMBER 09: Horses are spooked as the Woolsey Fire moves through the property on Cornell Road near Paramount Ranch on November 9, 2018 inAgoura Hills, California. About 75,000 homes have been evacuated in Los Angeles and Ventura counties due to two fires in the region. (Photo by Matthew Simmons/Getty Images)
AGOURA HILLS , CA - NOVEMBER 09: Firefighters from various departments work to protect structures as the Woolsey Fire moves through the property on Cornell Road near Paramount Ranch on November 9, 2018 in Agoura Hills, California. About 75,000 homes have been evacuated in Los Angeles and Ventura counties due to two fires in the region. (Photo by Matthew Simmons/Getty Images)
THOUSAND OAKS, CA - NOVEMBER 09: Horses are spooked as the Woolsey Fire moves through the property on Cornell Road near Paramount Ranch on November 9, 2018 inAgoura Hills, California. About 75,000 homes have been evacuated in Los Angeles and Ventura counties due to two fires in the region. (Photo by Matthew Simmons/Getty Images)
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“I can only stay here through November and then what am I gonna do?” Coulon asked. “Am I gonna be parking this [RV] as a homeless person?” 

The Camp fire, which killed 85 people in Northern California, torched nearly 90% of the rural community of Paradise. For months afterward, survivors were sleeping on friends’ couches, doubled up in homes, squeezed into trailers or other vehicles. Some were in homeless shelters

Today, the town itself shows signs of a steady recovery. The cleanup of miles of ashes and charred debris is largely complete. Over 200 building permits have been issued, according to Mayor Jody Jones. Even so, only an estimated 5,000 people are living there now, down from a population of over 26,000 before the fire. Many are housed in trailers on their property, waiting to rebuild. 

As for those who didn’t have insurance or were renting and don’t have property to rebuild on, many are scattered around the region, still struggling to find a permanent home a year later.

“I feel like the people that had a support system, insurance, and were living relatively comfortably are starting to resolve some issues,” said Siana Sonoquie, who runs a winter shelter for homeless residents in Chico. “It’s the people that didn’t have that, who were living in substandard housing or didn’t have housing insurance,” who still don’t have good options.

“You see the stark difference between the haves and the have nots,” she added. “It’s who gets left behind.” 

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Wildfires in California
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Wildfires in California
Bomberos luchan contra un incendio en Los Ángeles, el 28 de octubre del 2019. (AP Foto/ Christian Monterrosa)
Firefighters try to save a home on Tigertail Road from the Getty fire, Monday, Oct. 28, 2019, in Los Angeles, Calif. (AP Photo/ Christian Monterrosa)
Hand crews work a wildfire-damaged hillside as the Getty fire burns on Mandeville Canyon, Oct. 28, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
The Getty fire burns on Mandeville Canyon Monday, Oct. 28, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
A firefighter gets in position to hose down flames as a home burns in the Getty fire area along Tigertail Road Monday, Oct. 28, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Firefighters try to save a home on Tigertail Road during the Getty fire, Monday, Oct. 28, 2019, in Los Angeles, Calif. (AP Photo/ Christian Monterrosa)
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Paradise was a lower-income community, with a median household income of $49,000 (well below the national median), and a quarter of its residents were over 65. Like many regions of California, Butte County had a serious homelessness problem even before the fire. As of March of this year, the number of homeless residents had risen by 16% compared to 2017. 

Coulon said rental prices in the area are too high now for what she makes as an education assistant at a high school working with students with special needs. She’s been on leave since September for depression and anxiety, which she attributes to the fire and its aftermath.

“I’ll never be able to rent in this county again,” she said. “I had a life. I created this little life. ... It was a humble little life. And I can’t get it back. ... I can’t get the same feeling living in this RV.”

“I feel like I’m gonna be living in this RV for the rest of my life,” she said. “It took everything.”

On a property that local residents call Nimshew Park in the town of Magalia, which was hit hard by the Camp fire, Kris Nikolauson has created a makeshift community of fire survivors. There are more than a dozen trailers and motor homes, one tent and soon a tiny house on the land, with about 30 residents paying $10 a day or $300 a month to park there. 

“They live in whatever they can to keep a roof over their head,” Nikolauson said. 

At the Torres homeless shelter in Chico ― a college town where rental prices run far higher than around Paradise ― the 160 or so beds have often been filled to capacity since the fire, according to Joy Amaro, who heads the shelter. They added about 25 beds for families after the fire, she said, and those spots filled immediately, with a waiting list of hopefuls. Not all of the latest residents were direct victims of the fire — some were pushed out of housing as prices rose after the blaze.

Before the blaze, the average stay at the shelter was about 55 nights. Now it’s around 80 nights. The waiting lists to transition people into lower-income housing are hundreds of people long.

“It’s still dire,” Amaro said of the housing situation a year out. “It’s all around us, the housing crisis.”

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California Wildfires
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California Wildfires
California wildfires latest: Gov. declares emergency as blazes force evacuations from wine country to Los Angeles (ABC News)
Vines surround a burning building as the Kincade Fire burns through the Jimtown community of unincorporated Sonoma County, Calif., on Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
A firefighter prepares to fight a wildfire as it overtakes a home Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019, in Santa Clarita, Calif. The flames are fed by dry winds that are predicted to strengthen across the region. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
A firefighter tries to put out a residence fire caused by a wildfire from atop a fire truck Friday, Oct. 25, 2019, in Santa Clarita, Calif. An estimated 50,000 people were under evacuation orders in the Santa Clarita area north of Los Angeles as hot, dry Santa Ana winds howling at up to 50 mph (80 kph) drove the flames into neighborhoods(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
This image taken from aerial video released by Los Angeles County Fire Department Air Operations Section @LACoFireAirOps, shows a view from a Firehawk helicopter battling a wildfire, Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019, in Castaic, Calif. Authorities say at least 40,000 residents have been ordered to evacuate as wind-driven fires rage near neighborhoods north of Los Angeles. (Los Angeles County Fire Department Air Operations Section @LACoFireAirOps via AP)
This image taken from aerial video released by Los Angeles County Fire Department Air Operations Section @LACoFireAirOps, shows a view from a Firehawk helicopter battling a wildfire, Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019, in Santa Clarita, Calif. Authorities say at least 40,000 residents have been ordered to evacuate as wind-driven fires rage near neighborhoods north of Los Angeles. (Los Angeles County Fire Department Air Operations Section @LACoFireAirOps via AP)
A firefighter sprays water on a burning home as the Kincade Fire burns through the Jimtown community of unincorporated Sonoma County, Calif., on Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
Vines surround a burning building as the Kincade Fire burns through the Jimtown community of unincorporated Sonoma County, Calif., on Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
Firefighters hose down a burning house during the Tick Fire in Agua Dulce near Santa Clarita, California on October 25, 2019. - California firefighters battled through the night to contain a fast-moving wildfire driven by high winds that was threatening to engulf thousands of buildings. Around 40,000 people were told to flee the Tick Fire, which was raging across 4,000 acres (1,600 hectares) just north of Los Angeles. (Photo by Mark RALSTON / AFP) (Photo by MARK RALSTON/AFP via Getty Images)
Trailers burn, as a wind driven wildfire continues to burn in Canyon Country north of Los Angeles, California, U.S. October 25, 2019. REUTERS/Gene Blevins
A wind driven wildfire continues to burn in Canyon Country north of Los Angeles, California, U.S. October 25, 2019. REUTERS/Gene Blevins
A fire truck is pictured, as a wind driven wildfire continues to burn in Canyon Country north of Los Angeles, California, U.S. October 25, 2019. REUTERS/Gene Blevins
Firefighters battle a wind driven wildfire in the hills of Canyon Country north of Los Angeles, California, U.S. October 24, 2019.REUTERS/ Gene Blevins
Air tankers make drops to help firefighters battle a wind driven wildfire in the hills of Canyon Country north of Los Angeles, California, U.S. October 24, 2019.REUTERS/ Gene Blevins
Firefighters battle a wind driven wildfire in the hills of Canyon Country north of Los Angeles, California, U.S. October 24, 2019.REUTERS/ Gene Blevins
Fire engulfs a tree as the Kincade fire continues to burn in Geyserville, California, U.S. October 24, 2019. REUTERS/Stephen Lam
A burning structure is seen in the middle of a vineyard during the Kincade fire in Geyserville, California, U.S. October 24, 2019. REUTERS/Stephen Lam
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Therese Rubiolo, 60, knows all too well how bad the housing situation has been. She and her husband John spent the past three years feeding homeless people six days a week out of their home in Concow. They had a big kitchen with three stoves, three fridges, three freezers, an island. Then their house ― and much of Concow ― burned down in the Camp fire, and they became homeless, too. 

The Rubiolos were soon able to get back on their property, but this time they were living in a trailer, with only a small propane stove and a sink. That didn’t stop them from continuing to feed 50 or so people six days a week while trying to pull together the funds to rebuild. Recently they were gifted with a second trailer outfitted as a kitchen to help them continue their work with a bit more space. 

The couple had fire insurance, but after spending what they needed to cover the mortgage, they were left with about $130,000. They’ve estimated the cost to rebuild, including permits and other expenses, will be about twice that, around $250,000 to $300,000. 

“So we were kind of screwed from the get-go,” Rubiolo said. Living in the trailer has been tough. They’re using a generator for power and a well for water. They can barely walk around the place, climbing in and out on one side of the bed as boxes of clothes are piled around the other sides.

“We fight a whole lot more than we used to. He’s always grumpy,” Rubiolo said. Her husband has a degenerative bone disease that causes him a lot of pain. “It’s hard for him on top of everything else, losing everything and being stuck in a small place.”

As the one-year anniversary of the fire approached, Marylisa Wood ― who operates a monthly, volunteer-run, free medical clinic in the area called Medspire ― could see patients struggling more, their symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder appearing to grow stronger. 

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Close-up of cellphone displaying alert from utility Pacific Gas and Electric (PGE) warning of an unprecedented Public Safety Power Shutoff, or planned power outage to reduce wildfire risk, which would leave much of the San Francisco Bay Area without electrical power, San Ramon, California, October 8, 2019. (Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)
Close-up of cellphone displaying alert from utility Pacific Gas and Electric (PGE) warning of an unprecedented Public Safety Power Shutoff, or planned power outage to reduce wildfire risk, which would leave much of the San Francisco Bay Area without electrical power, San Ramon, California, October 8, 2019. (Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)
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Wood ― who is not a nurse, but whose volunteer team consists mostly of nurses ― grew up in Paradise. They started the clinic after the fire, doing four-hour pop-up services for 30 to 45 patients once a month in areas affected by the blaze. The nurses have seen multiple symptoms associated with trauma, Wood said. Many people come in saying they haven’t been sleeping or have had trouble breathing. Their blood pressure is high.

“Some people come up and are crying and don’t know how to explain and want somebody to just sit there with them,” Wood said.

Coulon, who was taking time off work for her mental health, said she has felt exhausted ever since the fire. 

“I’m crying all the time,” she said, adding that she has been suicidal. The psychologist she had before the fire left and has not returned, like many other residents who were displaced.

“I’m depressed, my anxiety is through the roof, I have PTSD,” she said. “It’s far from over. People feel like the fire is still burning. Some people wish they’d just laid in the fire and ended it there.” 

The Federal Emergency Management Agency gave Coulon about $2,800 for her rental losses as well as a small business loan with which she bought the RV. The rest of that loan, which she still has to pay back, has almost entirely been spent “just living,” as she put it. 

FEMA said it gave an average of $7,415 in housing assistance and $6,605 in other aid to around 8,000 “eligible” households after the Camp fire. But more than 18,000 homes in the area burned. The agency did not provide any comment when HuffPost asked about the discrepancy.

Even those who consider themselves “lucky” are still just starting over a year later. 

Kim and Blair, who are in their 50s, lost their home in the Paradise fire (they asked that their last names not be used, citing concerns about possible identity theft) and they’ve been living in a hotel room in Sacramento since, paid for by their insurance. They spent months looking for a place they could afford and didn’t find anything in Butte County. They finally found a house in Dorris, on the Oregon border, and are hoping to move soon. It’s a 4.5-hour drive north, much farther than Paradise was from their kids, who live in Sacramento and Chico.

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A car drives passed a power station in Mill Valley, California as a statewide blackout continues on October, 10, 2019. - More than a million Californians were without electricity due to pre-emptive blackouts October 10, 2019, but localized fires broke out as hot, windy conditions spread south toward Los Angeles. Some 600,000 customers in northern California were in the dark after Pacific Gas & Electric began switching off power the previous day, in a bid to prevent a repeat of last year's catastrophic inferno which killed 86 people. (Photo by Josh Edelson / AFP) (Photo by JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Images)
SONOMA, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 10: Traffic lights in the Sonoma area are out due to power outages on October 10, 2019 in Sonoma, California. Power outages were scheduled as preemptive moves by PG&E to address hot, dry and windy weather and the risk of wildfires, according to the company. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
A bicyclist rides passed high-tension power lines in Mill Valley, California as a statewide blackout continues on October, 10, 2019. - More than a million Californians were without electricity due to pre-emptive blackouts October 10, 2019, but localized fires broke out as hot, windy conditions spread south toward Los Angeles. Some 600,000 customers in northern California were in the dark after Pacific Gas & Electric began switching off power the previous day, in a bid to prevent a repeat of last year's catastrophic inferno which killed 86 people. (Photo by Josh Edelson / AFP) (Photo by JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 10: The city of San Francisco and the Bay Bridge are seen from the Oakland hills during the PG&E power outage in Oakland, Calif., on Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019. More than 700,000 homes and businesses in the San Francisco Bay Area were affected by the power shutoff, according to PG&E. (Photo by Ray Chavez/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 10: Streaks of tail lights of a vehicle make a turn on MacArthur Boulevard and Fruitvale Avenue in the Dimond district during the PG&E power outage in Oakland, Calif., on Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019. More than 700,000 homes and businesses in the San Francisco Bay Area were affected by the power shutoff, according to PG&E. (Photo by Ray Chavez/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 10: Oakland police officers in a police cruiser stay alert in the Montclair shopping district during the PG&E power outage in Oakland, Calif., on Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019. More than 700,000 homes and businesses in the San Francisco Bay Area were affected by the power shutoff, according to PG&E. (Photo by Ray Chavez/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images)
SAUSALITO, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 10: Akber Jiwani (R), the owner of New Bait Shop, and David Johnson (L), owner of Davey Jones Market, talk to a customer in front of their store darkened by a power outage on October 10, 2019 in Sausalito, California. Power outages were scheduled as preemptive moves by PG&E to address hot, dry and windy weather and the risk of wildfires, according to the company. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
SAUSALITO, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 10: A sign posted on the door of Saltaj Indian Cafe announces closure due to power outages on October 10, 2019 in Sausalito, California. Power outages were scheduled as preemptive moves by PG&E to address hot, dry and windy weather and the risk of wildfires, according to the company. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
MARIN CITY, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 10: The CVS store in Marin City is shown closed due to power outages on October 10, 2019 in Marin City, California. Power outages were scheduled as preemptive moves by PG&E to address hot, dry and windy weather and the risk of wildfires, according to the company. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
A sign calling for utility company PG&E to turn the power back on is seen on the side of the road during a statewide blackout in Calistoga, California, on October, 10, 2019 - Rolling blackouts set to affect millions of Californians began October 9, as Pacific Gas & Electric started switching off power to an unprecedented number of households in the face of hot, windy weather that raises the risk of wildfires. PG & E, which announced the deliberate outage, is working to prevent a repeat of a catastrophe last November in which faulty power lines it owned were determined to have sparked California's deadliest wildfire in modern history. (Photo by Josh Edelson / AFP) (Photo by JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Images)
A Valero gas station sits vacant after power was shut down as part of a statewide blackout in Santa Rosa, California on October, 10, 2019. - Rolling blackouts set to affect millions of Californians began October 9, as Pacific Gas & Electric started switching off power to an unprecedented number of households in the face of hot, windy weather that raises the risk of wildfires. PG & E, which announced the deliberate outage, is working to prevent a repeat of a catastrophe last November in which faulty power lines it owned were determined to have sparked California's deadliest wildfire in modern history. (Photo by Josh Edelson / AFP) (Photo by JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Images)
NAPA, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 10: Stop signs are displayed at an intersection where traffic lights are out due to a PG&E power outage October 10, 2019 in Napa, California. PG&E has continued plans to cut power to hundreds of thousands of customers across central and northern California as a precaution against starting wildfires as low humidity and high winds increase the threat in the area. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 09: ATM machines at the Chase bank are still illuminated minutes after the power went out in the Montclair District of Oakland, Calif., on Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019. Power was supposed to go out at noon in Montclair, but the PG&E shutoff was delayed until approximately 10:37 p.m. (Photo by Jane Tyska/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images)
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“We’re the lucky ones, but it’s been hell,” Kim said. Blair, who has diabetes, has had a hard time regulating his blood sugar levels living in a room without a kitchen. He has been hospitalized twice since the fire. And now he’ll be leaving the region he called home for 22 years.

Kim said she’s relieved in some ways that they won’t be living in “a wildfire county,” as she put it. “The first thing I did on this property was call and check it’s not in a wildfire zone,” she said. 

“I go through periods where I feel I should not have lived, and I wish I had died in the fire,” Kim said. “But I won’t give PG&E the satisfaction.”

Officials found that the Camp fire was caused by PG&E’s power lines ― one of several fires in the state that the utility has been linked to. 

One of the biggest issues the town of Paradise faces now is the thousands of burned trees that are still standing but threatening to fall ― potentially injuring or killing people or wrecking new homes ― if high enough winds blow through. There are about 300,000 such trees in the town, according to the mayor, and about 80,000 hover over properties where people want to build new houses. The town is working on how to get these removed, a pricey and painstaking project. 

Meanwhile the town’s water, which was found to be contaminated and undrinkable after the fire, still should not be consumed. A Paradise Irrigation District advisory tells residents to stick to bottled water. 

Mayor Jones insisted that the main water lines were largely not affected and they have a “good plan” for the contaminated service lines. They’re testing and, if needed, replacing the lines, first to standing homes and then to new houses as they get built. 

“We’re moving forward. We’re resilient, we’re persevering,” the mayor said. “There’s a lot of hope for our future.” 

Other survivors struck a considerably less optimistic tone. 

“I think people are forgotten,” Coulon said. “It’s not done, it’s far from over. And we’re out here and we still need help.”

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