By Linda Titel
Bill Schroeder grew up on County Road P on a small farm in Shiocton. He was one of 12 children, the son of Fred and Marie Schroeder.
Schroeder enlisted in the Marine Corps and met his wife Cindy while stationed in California, where they resided and raised a family.
On Nov. 8, 2018, Bill and Cindy had a devastating experience in their hometown of Paradise, California. Their house, garage and three out buildings were burnt to the ground from the infamous Camp Fire
Butte County’s deadly Camp Fire was named after Camp Creek Road, the location where the fire started. The Camp Fire in Butte County killed at least 86 people and destroyed 18,793 structures. It was the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in state history according to CNN.
Bill and Cindy lost their home of 39 years, the Schroeder’s immediate family lost eight out of their nine homes by the Camp Fire in Paradise.
Bill Schroeder has been retired for the last five years, and had recently finished remodeling his kitchen which was a year long process. Schroeder was a retired painter by trade and his son is a carpenter. Now, that kitchen and house are gone, just a pile of debris sits where the house once stood.
Schroeder said, “I turned on the news, it was 7:15 a.m. and I was having my coffee, the news said the fire started down in the valley at 6:30 a.m., there had been fires in the valley before but they were always contained, so we weren’t that worried about it. About a half hour later, we looked outside and saw flames. There wasn’t any order to evacuate because there wasn’t time. The fire was blowing embers on our house even before we evacuated.
“We decided to get out and left around 8:30 a.m. I was driving down the ridge around 40 miles per hour and the fire had jumped the road and was burning fast. I was watching it burn the length of a football field per second fueled by the high winds. My wife was in a different vehicle because she had to pick up clients, she owns her own business taking care of handicapped and elderly people. I got down the hill finally, it took me three and a half hours to go eight miles. The air was black with smoke and it was very difficult to see.
“There are three ways out of Paradise, but those roads were jam-packed with vehicles, technically there was only one way out because the officials closed down the other two roads because of the fire approaching them.”
The family made quick phone calls when the decision to leave was made as to where everyone should meet up, because there would be lack of communication once the fire took down electrical poles and cell towers. Every family member was to meet in a town called Chico which is about 13 miles away. Most of the family was there in three to four hours except for one granddaughter but they found her safe later.
The Schroeder family will rebuild but it will take two to three years, said Bill.
“We love the area and living in California. The plan is to live in a trailer on the lot and rebuild the house eventually.”
The area has to be cleared of all the debris and toxic material before reconstruction can take place. The worry is that toxins have seeped into the soil and possibly contaminated it because of the recent rains.
Bill and his wife are staying with their daughter in Sacramento and the rest of the family is dispersed within a 100 mile radius.
Bill and his wife have three children, seven grandchildren and five great grandchildren.
Bill’s wife Cindy still works at her job, she travels from Sacramento which is 60 miles every day, in one day she can put on 300 miles.
His wife Cindy went to pick up a friend of theirs during the fire and was sent on a different route, a back road that she had never been on, but her friend knew where they were so he guided her through the fire. She also picked up one of her clients that was 77 years old, who was waiting in her trailer for someone to pick her up. Bill said, “She was a hero in that respect but there were so many heroes that day.”