by Leslie Layton
The appearance of Congressman Doug LaMalfa and state lawmakers at today’s Camp Fire recovery Town Hall meeting drew anxious survivors and evacuees, as well as protesters who lined the entrance to the Chico Elks Lodge.
Several hundred people filled the lodge auditorium, as well as officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the California Office of Emergency Services. After presentations by lawmakers and officials, audience members concerned about the need for tree clearing and road widening to provide safe evacuation routes from fire-prone communities, about water quality and services for survivors suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, lined up to ask questions. An Oroville resident asked about the toxicity of the heaps of concrete and metal being trucked out of Paradise and whether it’s being handled in the safest possible way.
LaMalfa (R-Richvale) noted that the federal government usually provides only 75 percent reimbursement for the cost of disaster recovery, but raised that to 90 percent in the case of the Camp Fire. State Sen. Jim Nielsen (R-Tehama) said “pushback” had been necessary because some groups were lobbying against the rebuilding of Paradise and for the “de-populating of rural Northern California,” – although the post-Camp Fire debate has largely centered around how to provide new housing after a climate-fueled disaster.