Giving Compass' Take:

• Dani Burlison explains how the Camp Fire Restoration Project is using permaculture to help wildfire survivors recover.

• How can this type of program be scaled? Where else in the world could this type of program thrive? 

• Read about why wildfire recovery should incorporate natural building structures


On a bright spring afternoon in late April, roughly 75 people gathered at the first Camp Fire restoration weekend at a farm 20 miles southwest of Paradise, California. The small private farm, nestled near a sprawling cow pasture that reaches east toward the burn zone, was safe from the Camp Fire. But in Paradise, signs of the devastating fire remain: burned-out vehicles, long lines of debris-removal trucks snaking toward the highway, billboards of encouragement (and insurance company ads) for survivors, and posters thanking first responders.

After the 2018 Camp Fire ravaged the small forested town—leaving just10% of homes standing—residents were left with the enormous task of rebuilding their community. For locals, that means rebuilding homes and businesses. But it also means ecological restoration of the scorched Sierra Nevada foothills.

Matthew Trumm, founder of the Camp Fire Restoration Project, hopes his project will do both.

Trumm’s friends own the farm where attendees of the restoration camp gathered for three days to launch the project, taking early steps in helping land and people recover from the deadly fires.

With the weekend camp, Trumm and a dozen other camp organizers wanted to bring people together to begin organizing for long-term recovery of Paradise. Activities provided training in regenerative design and ecological restoration, including a day performing permaculture projects at Pine Ridge School in Magalia, one of few schools left standing in the Camp Fire burn zone. On the final day of the camp, committees were formed to tackle ongoing needs to rebuild infrastructure for shelter, water, and energy.

Trumm’s “experiment” is based on the work of ecologist and filmmaker John D. Liu, who documented the Loess Plateau Watershed Rehabilitation Project, a restoration endeavor that began in 1994 in a 250,000-square-mile region along the Yellow River basin in China. Liu went on to create Ecosystem Restoration Camps that have helped recover overly grazed and farmed land in arid environments.

Trumm first began studying permaculture 12 years ago, after leaving behind his life as a DJ in the San Francisco Bay Area and heading to his family’s land in the hills southeast of Paradise. There, he began living off the grid and growing his own food, which eventually led him to complete a permaculture design course.

Read the full article about the Camp Fire Restoration Project by Dani Burlison at YES! Magazine.