cars speed down a highway with smoke and flames in the background
Butte County residents flee the quickly spreading Camp Fire. (Screenshot/CBS News)

Chico Jews stand ready to help neighbors fleeing fires

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As the deadly Camp fire devastated parts of Butte County, residents in nearby Chico remained on high alert. That included the area’s small Jewish community.

“Some members have been affected,” said David Halimi, co-president of Chico’s Congregation Beth Israel, a small independent synagogue with roots stretching back more than 100 years. “They are staying with others. The synagogue itself is not in danger.”

As of now, the Camp fire has scorched more than 70,000 acres, including the near-total destruction of the town of Paradise, located due east of Chico in the Sierra Foothills. Five people have been killed in the blaze, all of them found trapped in their cars as they attempted to flee the flames. Thousands of structures have also been destroyed.

Rebbetzin Chana Zweibel of the Chabad Jewish Center of Chico, which largely serves students at Cal State Chico, said her city is safe for now. “Most of the students have left town,” she said. “We’re staying put to be here for anyone. Thank God everyone we’ve touched base with is safe. Spirits are high.”

Halimi said the Jewish community stands ready to help its neighbors.

“Everybody is doing their best and hoping for the best,” he told J. “There’s a great deal of support community-wise for all those affected by the fire, whether Jews or not.”

Dan Pine

Dan Pine is a contributing editor at J. He was a longtime staff writer at J. and retired as news editor in 2020.