After the flames: Chico, California, is booming after Paradise burned

Now, the population has spiked by 10,000 to 20,000 because of people who fled the fire, not to mention hundreds of repair and restoration workers from state and federal agencies and from the Pacific Gas and Electric utility. That has pushed the population of the city — an hour and 45 minutes north of Sacramento on California Route 99 — to about what had been expected two decades from now.

“The growth happened overnight. It’s kind of amazing,” Orme said. “It feels like a city within a city.”

The result has been a boon to many businesses, and a windfall for homeowners ready to move on, but a costly and vexing challenge for an overburdened city government and people who yearn for the old, pre-fire Chico.

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