After the Camp Fire, with 11,000 homes lost, I had a curiosity to see the epicenter, Paradise. Paradise is on the Sierra foothills in Northern California , about 1,500′ elevation.
It really is a bucolic little town, nestled among the pines, and was a favorite place to retire. Despite its 1,500′ elevation, it is only 20 miles or so from Chico, elevation 150′, a smaller city at the northern end of the Central Valley.
I called the California Highway Patrol in Chico, who assured me that all the roads to Paradise were open. With that knowledge, I headed up the highway to Paradise.
I had expected an apocalyptic wasteland, charred ruins amid blackened trees. What I encountered was not quite that bad, although a local told me that 85% of Paradise was burned.
I remember the news at the time telling us that only Paradise High School was spared. Well, it was there along with a church, shopping center, and some businesses.
But it was still what I’d call a surrealistic trip.
Going down the main boulevard, I was a bit hungry and saw a McDonald’s sign. As I was ready to go to the parking lot, the sign was perfect but the building burned to the ground.
One large shopping center was destroyed while another escaped undamaged. I stopped in the store there (where you see the signs), and had lunch at their deli. One of the employees told me to take some side streets to see the remnants of the neighborhoods.
Which I did.
That’s where I saw the true devastation. Although here and there was a house that was unscathed, while the surrounding homes were burned to the ground. I had heard that it was the flying embers that determined what burned and what remained.
I apologize for the low-resolution pictures, but we are running critically low on our allowable disk space.
For want of a nail, the shoe was lost;
For want of the shoe, the horse was lost;
For want of the horse, the rider was lost;
For want of the rider, the battle was lost;
For want of the battle, the kingdom was lost;
And all from the want of a horseshoe nail.
The Camp Fire, which, in addition to its death toll, destroyed more than 10,000 homes and businesses, began on a day of low humidity, strong winds and lingering drought, with soils and plants in some areas parched by more than 200 days with no significant precipitation. That was the environment in which the fire began — itself a crucial piece of the puzzle.
I remember that day. Even 100 miles south there were some very strong winds.
The town seems to be coming back slowly.