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Despite the devastation, survivors of the Camp fire go forward with wedding

Despite the devastation, survivors of the Camp fire go forward with wedding
Brian Gobba and Morgan Shingler dance on their wedding night in Chico, Calif. (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

The bride and groom locked eyes inside the Chico Women’s Club on Saturday afternoon, and for a moment the devastation of the massive Camp fire faded into the background.

After all, the wedding of Morgan Shingler and Brian Gobba almost didn’t happen.

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It all started on the morning of Nov. 8 when the father of the bride, Shawn Shingler, who owns a Paradise construction company, briefly left a job site to grab some doughnuts for his workers.

Shingler saw a plume of smoke in the distance, but “it didn’t appear to be a threat,” he said.

Then he got a call from his daughter’s fiance, Brian, who was at the house. The Shinglers needed to evacuate.

They had to abandon the home where they have lived for the last 16 years. The home where Shingler and his wife, Shere, celebrated their three daughters’ birthdays every year. The setting where, every Christmas, the family would cut down their own tree.

The home is featured on Shingler’s business card.

“We lost it all,” Shingler said.

As the family ran from the house, they grabbed pictures off the wall, the gold spray-painted mason jars for the wedding centerpieces and the handmade gold stars crafted for the reception.

They also grabbed the bride’s lace dress.

On Friday, the day after the fire, the family debated whether to go forward with the wedding. The caterer’s kitchen burned down. The deejay lost his equipment. What if people didn’t show?

In the end, the couple decided that they needed something that would lift their spirits.

“We weren’t going to let the fire take anything more from us,” said Gobba, the groom. The little details that seemed so important only days before were an afterthought. This wasn’t so much about proper ceremonial etiquette, but rather simply for people to come and enjoy themselves.

On Saturday, guests posed for pictures and dined on tri-tip. Some wore donated clothing because they had lost their belongings in the blaze. Others brought protective face masks to protect against lingering smoke. Even the pastor had to buy a new suit.

But it didn’t matter. Speeches were made and the cake was cut.

The father of the bride choked up when he thought about what everyone had been through. The devastation of an entire town and 150,000 charred acres. Seventy-six people were killed and more than 1,000 are missing.

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“Many of us in this room have lost something, but we’re all here together,” he said.

Greg Bolin, a Paradise town council member, is related to the bride and enjoyed taking some time to celebrate. Bolin had seen the devastation of his home and town. The present he and his wife had bought for the couple had burned.

“This is a diversion from thinking about it,” Bolin said about the fire.

And all 100 guests showed up.

As the bride and groom enjoyed their first dance, the people who had been through so much took a moment to smile at a new beginning.

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