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Remembering Paradise, those affected say it was "like a war zone"

Firefighters said they've never seen anything like the Paradise Fire. (KTVL Staff){ }{p}{/p}
Firefighters said they've never seen anything like the Paradise Fire. (KTVL Staff)

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On the one year anniversary of the Camp Fire, people who were affected by the tragedy, reflect on how their lives have changed forever.

Lee Gregory, the pastor of Medford Neighborhood Church, said it was a beautiful day before Paradise went up in flames.

Gregory grew up in Paradise and said that wildfires there are not out of the ordinary. Because of this, he noted that the severity of Camp Fire took people by surprise.

"I don't think people understood how serious the evacuation was," he said.

Battalion Chief at Medford Fire Rescue, Brian Farber, and Battalion Chief of Fire District Three, Mike Calhoun, were both deployed to the Paradise fire when it happened.

"Sometime around 10:00 PM it happened. I remember thinking to myself how bad could this wind be," said Calhoun.

Farber and Calhoun agreed that when the winds began to pick up, they realized it was time to fight.

Farber mentioned the vacant cars on the highways, some having skeletons still sitting in the car.

"It was just awful, I can't describe it. Like a war zone," said Farber.

Calhoun said the firefighters experienced moments when they feared for their safety.

"When you reference people trying leave Paradise with fire on both sides of the road, we got to experience that. We got to experience that ourselves. It was an interesting place to be," said Calhoun.

Calhoun went on to say, "As the fire was burning over the truck, I remember thinking to myself, this is happening. Then it passed and we continued on."

Pastor Gregory was in Medford when the fire was happening, he noted that he was fearful of his family's safety.

Gregory said he felt like he needed to do something to help.

He said a group of children on his bus route inspired him to create a campaign to help survivors in need.

Through the I Care campaign, the Medford Neighborhood Church functioned as a store providing basic goods to survivors who came to Oregon after the evacuation.

Gregory said about 120 families came through the store to shop for belongings.

When asked what life's like one year after the fire, Gregory said the topic is still painful.

"We thought we would host and invite people to come here that were survivors. Just to come and tell their story (and) have a time of remembrance" he said but noted that after talking to victims of the fire he found that, "it's still much too tender."

"This is not a pleasant day," he added.

Gregory went on to say that people are still hurting, and this is not a day that he or anyone wants to remember.

He said he's been back to Paradise after the fire, and people are trying to rebuild what they can.

Gregory said they are doing everything they can to rise from the ashes, but nothing will ever be the same.

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