Why Paradise was Doomed

Posted by Jack

The following is an excerpt from an investigative report on the Paradise Camp fire, done by the LA Times. It is a far more sober report than any of the previous news reports. Those stories were basically puff pieces,  extolling the acts of individual heroics and congratulating local officials for their “swift actions” and “decisive leadership” that prevented this fire from becoming a far worse disaster.

The story that is starting to emerge now, the real story, is not as pretty as the earlier versions.   In time, more disturbing facts will come out and they should, if we hope to learn from our mistakes in order to save lives and property in the future.   Now the Times report:

PARADISE, Calif. — The fate of Paradise was cast long before a windstorm last month fueled the deadliest fire in California history.

The ridge settlement was doomed by its proximity to a crack in the mighty wall of the Sierra Nevada, a deep canyon that bellowed gale-force winds.

It was doomed by its maze of haphazard lanes and dead-end roads that paid no heed to escape.

It remained doomed because for all the preparations community leaders made, they practiced for tamer wildfires that frequently burned to the edge of town and stopped — not a wind-driven ember storm.

In the aftermath of the Camp fire — 86 dead, more than 13,900 homes destroyed and Paradise decimated — local and state officials said the tragedy was unforeseen and unavoidable, an “unprecedented” monster of fire.

In truth, the destruction was utterly predictable, and the community’s struggles to deal with the fire were the result of lessons forgotten and warnings ignored. The miracle of the tragedy, local officials now concede, is how many people escaped.

A Los Angeles Times investigation found that Paradise ignored repeated warnings of the risk its residents faced, crafted no plan to evacuate the area all at once, entrusted public alerts to a system prone to fire, and did not sound citywide orders to flee even as a hail of fire rained down.

Historical records show the Camp fire was typical of the catastrophic wind-driven fires responsible for California’s greatest wildfire losses.

A state fire planning document warned in 2005 that Paradise risked an ember firestorm akin to the one that ripped through Berkeley and Oakland 14 years earlier, killing more than two dozen people and destroying more than 2,000 homes. But Paradise officials framed risk in historical terms: In 50 years, no wildfire had crossed the Feather River.

The roads out of Paradise gridlocked within an hour of the first evacuation order, and began moving again only by a herculean effort of firefighters, police, bureaucrats and politicians who rushed to jammed intersections to try to unsnarl the knot, the benefit of having practiced for small fires.

In another three hours, hundreds of residents were trapped deep within town, cut off by flames. The town communications system was dead, as were cell towers. Police radios were crippled.

People jumped from cars and fled on foot. Hundreds sought refuge in parking lots and commercial buildings never intended to be temporary shelters in a firestorm. The remains of scores of residents were found inside the homes they never left.

The disaster occurred despite the fact that Paradise was proactive about preparing for fire, not just with drills and plans, but advertising its warning system, promoting “pack and go” preparations by residents, and even writing fire precautions into public construction projects. City leaders believed no other California community, except perhaps fire-dogged San Diego, was better prepared.

National transportation planners say the town’s destruction should set a new bar for emergency planners in wildfire areas, the way Hurricane Katrina reshaped evacuation planning on the Gulf Coast. But despite vows to create statewide evacuation standards after previous deadly wildfires, California has yet to take action and evacuation planning remains a local responsibility.

The question is more urgent than ever after two wildfire seasons with a staggering death toll: More than 40 killed by fires in wine country, more than 20 dead from the Montecito mudslides.

But experts fear the lessons will go unheeded.

Continue reading.

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6 Responses to Why Paradise was Doomed

  1. Libby says:

    That was excellent work. I especially like them tracking down the grand jurors. You all give some serious thought to your next county supervisor election. It matters.

    Can people get up the hill, yet, to look around? Maybe some of those homeless youth you complain about so much can get work on debris removal crews?

  2. J. Soden says:

    GREAT article! Thanks, Post Scripts!
    Was living in Chico during the previous Paradise fire that resulted in paving roads outta town. That should’ve been a wake-up-call, but evidently nobody answered the phone. Sad that so many folks died when they didn’t have to.

  3. Joe says:

    The only certainties are that this will happen again and the politicians will use their incompetence to demand more tax increases. GUARANTEED!

    • Libby says:

      Joe, if you are volunteering to grade and pave a third artery to Paradise, I’m sure the county will be glad to accept your services.

      Otherwise, we’re gonna have to pay somebody. Doofus.

      • Joe says:

        We already pay the highest taxes in the country but no matter how high taxes are, they will never be high enough for libtards like you.

        We have the second highest tax on gas but when you factor in the cap and trade tax we pay by far the highest taxes on gas and diesel. The fact is there would be plenty of tax money for roads, even new roads, if the corrupt politicians didn’t spend so much of our tax money on welfare, illegal aliens and for things the public employee unions demand.

        I guarantee more tax increases are coming and I guarantee they won’t be enough so the corrupt politicians will demand even more.

    • Peggy says:

      According to the map showing where the people died, 17 of the 88 died south of Pearson between Pentz and Clark. It became a death trap with the only one way out was going east into the fire on Pearson instead of west away from the fire.

      A parallel road to Pearson connecting Pentz and Clark needs to be included in the rebuilding plans for all streets west of Pearson

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