But after a fast-moving wildfire ravaged this community of 27,000 people, forcing thousands to flee by car and on foot, Paradise has become something else entirely. It has joined the growing list of California towns and cities devastated by one of the worst fire seasons on record.
Officials said at least nine people died and more than 6,700 homes and commercial buildings were lost — making it the most destructive fire to property in state history.
On Friday, a day after the Camp fire broke out, this formerly thriving community sat under a dark canopy of ash and smoke.
Homes and businesses had been reduced to piles of twisted metal. Tall pine trees and utility poles smoldered. According to the California Teachers Assn., at least five of the nine schools in Paradise were destroyed, including Paradise Elementary School.
Cars abandoned by fleeing motorists who found themselves unable to escape lay crumpled in the roadways, their tires melted.
The bodies of five people were discovered on Edgewood Lane in vehicles overtaken by the fire. Others were found outside their cars and homes. Butte County Sheriff Kory L. Honea said they could not immediately be identified because they were burned so badly.