The California Camp Fire, which started earlier this month and is still ongoing, has become the largest in California’s history. The loss of life has been devastating with 77 currently dead, but also tragic is the loss of property and cultural history. The town of Paradise, for example, was entirely engulfed by the wildfire. Paradise is known historically as a hub for loggers and prospectors, and its Gold Nugget Museum — a cottage filled with Gold Rush and local mining antiques — was the symbol of its rich past. Indeed, a 54-pound gold nugget was found in the country in 1859, and the museum is a tribute to the town’s importance during the Gold Rush. Now the Gold Nugget Museum is no more.
Community-funded and run by volunteers, the museum offered free admission to visitors and provided a fully immersive 19th-century California experience. It featured reenactments of gold miners’ lives with a realistic mine exhibit that gave visitors a sense of what it was actually like to work in the mine and strike it rich. On November 8, the day the Camp Fire started, this cornerstone of Paradise’s cultural history was burnt beyond recognition, along with much of the town itself. 140,000 acres and at least 10,321 structures in Paradise have been destroyed by the fire.
“Pretty much the community of Paradise is destroyed,” Scott McLean, spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, told reporters on November 8. “It’s that kind of devastation.”
Since the fires are still raging, plans for rebuilding the town and museum have not yet been made, though here are some ways you can donate to help the victims of the Camp Fire.
H/T: Atlas Obscura