“Nowhere else feels like the right place to be.”
For longtime residents Larry and Phoebe Hartt, Paradise will always be home. Like many, they lost their house and business to the fire in 2018, and were initially uncertain on what to do next. “We looked at a lot of cities, but Paradise felt like home,” Phoebe said. “We love the people, the mountains, the stars, the community. It seemed like we needed to go back.”
The Hartts decided to rebuild on their existing property, where they had lived for the last 36 years. Despite their commitment to move back, they weren’t without their uncertainties. “I think the biggest challenges for me,” Larry said, “were the unknowns. Will there be water? Trees? Infrastructure? Insurance? Who will move back?” Phoebe agreed, “It was the not knowing— who, how, when, what if?”
One step at a time, their questions were answered and fears alleviated. “Mostly it’s moving forward,” she continued. “Taking one step at a time, and realizing that the rest of Paradise was doing the same thing. Hearing from other people that we weren’t alone in wanting to return, was really helpful.”
The community meetings at the Alliance Church were also instrumental in their motivation to return to Paradise. “It was so encouraging to go to those and see so many people who care about what happens to the town,” Phoebe said. “It was amazing to see the unanimity in the desires for the future of Paradise.” Larry was similarly motivated by the bold spirit of the town council: “They said hey, we’re here, we’re moving forward, and we’re going to make a new town.”
Their advice for rebuilding? Make friends with your neighbors—even if the closests ones are a few streets over. Cheer on residents. Get a responsible, reputable contractor—and ask for references. Have patience with the legal process. It’s worth it.
Looking to the future, Larry and Phoebe are eager to be actively involved in the regrowth of Paradise. Already active members in organizations like Paradise Rotary, the Gold Nugget Museum, Northern California Ballet, Paradise Scholarship Foundation, they plan to find additional ways to contribute to the rebirth of the community.
“There is such a spirit of camaraderie,” Larry said. “It’s different than before. Paradise was always a special place, always friendly, but it’s gone from being just friendly to overwhelmingly compassionate and supportive of one another.”
As their home nears completion, paint colors are chosen, and furniture is purchased, Larry and Phoebe look forward to returning to their beloved mountain community. “I left for work that morning,” Phoebe recalled, “and I had no idea it was going to take me two years to get back home. “There are a lot of decisions still to come, but I want to go back home.”