By Laura Keil
Imagine you are going about your day in the middle of summer when a fireball lands in your yard without warning.
This is what happened to people in Paradise, California (population 27,000 at the time) in November 2018. The fire (dubbed “Camp Fire”) was sparked in the early morning, and at first, even First Responders did not consider it unusual. But after years of drought, and an extremely dry fall, the environment in that region of California was not usual.
To say the fire quickly spread is an understatement. At its peak, the Camp fire was burning 80 football fields a minute, and ripped through the towns of Concow and Paradise, flattening Paradise in four hours. These communities lost 95 per cent of their buildings and 30,000 people were left homeless.
Many people were trapped in the mountain town with no way out. Miraculously, many people stuck in cars and school buses did survive, as intimate footage shows in the documentary film Fire in Paradise, available on Netflix (not to be confused with the Frontline doc, a different film of the same name). Sadly 85 people died.
You hear about massive wildfires on the news, and occasionally one has come close to our communities, but this film brought it home for me: under hot, dry, windy conditions, today’s wildfires can spread so fast that people can’t escape, and firefighters have no hope of containing them in a timely way. In Paradise, hundreds of cars were caught in a traffic jam and most emergency personnel were diverted from fighting the fire to helping evacuate the populated areas.
I’m sharing all this here, because I urge you to watch this film and think about your property, your escape plan, and your go-bag as serious considerations during the fire season. In California, the fire season is now year-round. We are lucky in the Robson and North Thompson Valleys that it is limited from spring to fall, but as the May 4th wildfire that came within a lick of McBride made clear, the season is lengthening, which means our vigilance must as well.
Climate change is here and it’s wreaking havoc on our safety. This doc made it clear to me that we need to take serious action against the warming of our planet by reducing humans’ impact, as well as ensuring that we are mentally prepared for what a blaze could mean for us.
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