Date of Award

Spring 2020

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Master of Arts

First Advisor

Cliff Brown

Second Advisor

Thomas Safford

Third Advisor

Karen Van Gundy


In the context of rapid environmental change and more frequent and severe natural disasters, it is imperative that we understand the impact these disasters have on affected communities, particularly the effects they have on residents’ relationships to both their physical and social worlds. To do this, I conducted twenty-four in-depth qualitative interviews with residents of Paradise and surrounding impacted communities following the 2018 Camp Fire, which destroyed roughly 95% of the town and was California’s most destructive wildfire to date. I present findings from these interviews in three stages: during the fire itself, during the short-term response, and finally looking toward long-term recovery. Throughout all of these stages, there is a disruption of norms and expectations that causes a sense of disorientation and dislocation among residents. The loss of physical space interferes with their ability to engage in social life and access critical social resources. Because physical places themselves are socially constructed, the end of these social uses also means a loss of the symbolic meanings once ascribed to them, thus inevitably transforming them. This impacts people’s place-based and community identities in important ways. As such, changes to survivors’ physical and social worlds do not occur on their own; rather, they interact with each other throughout the recovery process.