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Paradise's population surges, fueled by new housing construction in wake of Camp Fire

Vincent Moleski, The Sacramento Bee on

Published in News & Features

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California’s latest population estimates show that Paradise — the Northern California town ravaged by the Camp Fire in 2018 — has seen the fastest population growth in the state in the last year.

Fueled by housing construction, the population of Paradise rose from 4,608 people as of Jan. 1, 2020, up to 6,046 a year later, according to estimates released by the California Department of Finance on Friday.

The town’s 31.2% leap in population outpaces the rest of the state, much of which reflected a decrease in population amid low birth rates and slower immigration. California’s population on the whole dropped by 182,083 people in 2020 for the first time in recorded state history.

But Paradise has been rebuilding since much of the town was destroyed in November 2018 after the deadly Camp Fire tore through town. More than 10,000 buildings were burned in the fire, and 85 people died. The Camp Fire caused a huge decrease in the town’s population in the year that followed, dropping from just under 27,000 as of the 2010 census down to 2,034 residents in 2019 — a 92.4% decrease.

Paradise also outpaced the rest of the state in terms of housing construction. Department of Finance data show that the town increased its total housing by 32.1% in 2020, the fastest rate in the state. Much of this construction has been in single-family homes. The town’s number of single-family homes rose by nearly 40.7%, while its multi-family homes increased by 11.5%.

The Chico Enterprise-Record reported in December that, despite rising construction costs across California and the nation, Paradise has been receiving a high volume of building permit applications by residents seeking to rebuild their lost homes.


Before the fire, the town issued about 25 permits a year, the newspaper reported. But since then, more than 1,200 building permits have been issued and more than 1,400 have been received. As of December, over 530 homes were rebuilt and 70 multi-family units were rebuilt, according to the Enterprise-Record.

Nearby Chico, also in Butte County, recorded a modest increase to its population, according to state data. The city’s total population went from 110,364 to 111,490 in 2020, an increase of 1%.

Butte County’s population on the whole decreased by 3%, down from nearly 209,000 to 202,669 by the end of 2020.

Oroville’s population saw a significant drop last year, down from 18,888 residents to 17,863, a 5.4% decrease. Gridley, located southwest of Oroville, went from 6,515 residents to 6,129, a 5.9% drop. The small community of Biggs, just north of Gridley, lost 6.7% of its population with a little over a hundred-person decline. Its population at the start of 2020 was 1,852, and dropped to 1,727.

All unincorporated areas of Butte County saw a net decrease in population of 11%, down from 66,724 to 59,414.

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