Karissa Willhoit

Material Salvaged From Camp Fire Gets Turned Into Holiday Decorations

Holly Quan
December 13, 2018 - 3:16 pm

The Butte County wildfire was the most destructive in California’s history, and among the fire’s many victims was the historic Honey Run Covered Bridge.

The wooden bridge had spanned Butte Creek since 1886 and was a popular attraction near Paradise. Before the fire it hosted weddings, proposals, swimming lessons and more treasured memories. One Chico woman is now turning the remnants of the bridge into holiday keepsakes and some proceeds will be used to help rebuild the bridge. 

“We’ve had so much sadness and tragedy and loss, and then this little, tiny organic effort I think just symbolizes hope and forward thinking and moving on and rebuilding a place that was so beautiful and held so many happy, happy, happy memories," said Karin Willhoit.

She and her husband salvaged five large pieces of sheet metal from the Butte Creek on Thanksgiving morning as crews prepared to clean up the debris. 

The sheets were then sliced up and folded into heart-shaped Christmas ornaments, because "love builds bridges," Willhoit said. 

The Camp Fire destroyed thousands of homes and structures including the historic Honey Run Covered Bridge over Butte Creek. The site had been a popular spot for wedding photos. Karin Willhoit, of Chico, turned salvaged material from the bridge into Christmas decorations and proceeds from an EBay auction will be donated to pay for a new bridge. Read more about Willhoit’s story on KCBSRadio.com. Photos by Karissa Willhoit.

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With a team of volunteers, Willhoit took them to shops around Chico. The first 200 sold out within a day, she said. 

She has made 1,400 more out of the remaining scrap metal, and the last batch will make its way to stores in the area this weekend.

These ornaments are the last batch, and she won’t be able to make any more because the rest of the bridge debris has already been cleared away and recycled. But she’s holding on to some wood, bolts and nails that she hopes another artist can repurpose.

People outside of Chico who want their piece of the bridge will also get a chance. A select few will be put up for auction on eBay and the money will be put toward constructing a new Honey Run bridge. 

"All the ornaments are really cool but these ones are extra special," said Willhoit. "You want to keep them all but you know you can’t.”

Written by Jessica Yi.