Jerry and John Mendon ran Mendon’s Nursery from this office for forty-five years. Jerry died in August, 2017, and John will sell the nursery as a result of the Camp Fire.

What happened on the eight acres of Mendon’s Nursery shows the Camp Fire’s capriciousness. Fifteen pallets of bags of potting soil, bark, and amendments survived, plastic bagging intact, while five yards away, palm trees in planting boxes burned up. The fire destroyed camellias, azaleas, and hydrangeas near a nursery building but spared rose bushes on display with other sun-loving plants farther away. Most of the dogwood and Japanese maple are gone. Hostis near destroyed buildings burned, while higher on the property, hostis survived. Most large ceramic pots survived. The nursery’s office building/gift shop and a large warehouse/ shop are no more. The retail greenhouse survived.

“Imagine a blow torch,” explained John Mendon. “That’s how the fire came through here,” torching in its immediate path, sparing the rest. The torch cut a wide swath. Mendon said 30% of the nursery’s inventory survives.

On the morning of November 8, John Mendon had driven up to the nursery to meet a delivery truck from Oregon. Typically, John would meet this company’s truck already waiting at the nursery gate when he arrived, and that Thursday was no different. Staff unloaded the truck as quickly as they could—several kinds of shrubs and deciduous and evergreen trees, including Colorado blue spruce, which nursery customers favor for living Christmas trees.

The truck hastened on its way, and staff left the trees right where they unloaded them. Then the staff left too. Mendon drove down off the ridge in the nursery’s most valuable vehicle, which had been loaded the evening before for a Chico delivery.

Most of the truckload of trees from Oregon survived unharmed. And none of the nursery’s vehicles were lost to the fire. All the nursery’s staff and John’s mother lost their homes, whether owned or rented, to the fire, but everyone evacuated safely. That Friday, John Mendon made the Chico delivery.

In the fire’s aftermath, for a couple of months staff returned to the nursery to water what plants remained. “At first,” said John, “you feel shock at how everything looks, then you get used to it, and then you just get to work.”

Working as rain permits, staff have been readying for a clearance sale, which is scheduled to begin March 15 and run until everything that did not burn is sold. Then, after a venerable forty-five years, the family business will close. Mendon plans to sell the nursery; he mentioned he has already received a couple of offers. “At this point in my life,” he said, “I just can’t see starting over.” He and his wife will join their son and grandchildren in Arizona. “It’s what we had planned to do anyway,” he noted, “just not this soon.” He admitted, “I feel some guilt. I’d like to stay and help Paradise rebuild. But that will take years, and family comes first.”

Mendon hopes to sell the name with the nursery, in which case Mendon’s Nursery will be there for the rebuilding process.

Taco the parrot steals the foreground from the young family, John with his mom and dad.