Fire in Paradise: An American Tragedy

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In 2018, some of the most devastating fires on record wreaked havoc on Californians. The Carr Fire burned 229,000 acres over a period of thirty-eight days, reached temperatures of more than 2,700 degrees Fahrenheit, and fanned a 17,000 foot tall fire tornado that whirled at 143 miles per hour. The Mendocino Complex Fire burned 717 square miles of the northern portions of the state. The Woolsey Fire torched 97,000 acres through Los Angeles and Ventura counties and parts of the Santa Monica mountains. But by far the deadliest, most destructive in terms of loss of human life and economic devastation was the Camp Fire that began on November 8th and burned for seventeen days, utterly consuming the city of Paradise and surrounding communities, displacing more than 50,000 people and burning alive 85 of them.

This book by Gee and Anguiano, both seasoned journalists, chronicles the frantic evacuation of Pulga, Concow, Magalia, and the city of Paradise as the wall of flames chased them down at unprecedented speeds, consuming the size of more than two hundred football fields a minute. Spliced in three primary sections, this fast paced narrative account documents how a PG&E power line tower number 27/222 sparked the fire when a C-hook broke free amid 70 mile per hour Diablo gusts. Had the fire started on the east side of the North Fork Feather River instead of the inaccessible West Bank, the early arrival of firefighters could have contained it before the canyon winds barreled the flames headlong up the ridge on a sleepy Thursday morning. Gee and Anguiano braid the stories of hundreds of interviews to bring back the heroes that gave their lives helping others get away.

Layered throughout the heated action, Gee and Anguiano tackle the underlying conditions that drive up the frequency of these epic fires, and the the options available to curb the trend. Their reporting quotes directly from the seasoned professionals tasked with fighting these blazes, the corporate leaders facing new safety challenges, and the lawmakers wrestling with regulatory issues.

Paradise is gone, but the lessons remain.

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Star Count 4.5/5
Format Hard
Page Count 256 pages
Publisher W. W. Norton & Company
Publish Date 2020-05-05
ISBN 9781324005148 Buy this Book
Issue October 2020
Category Current Events & Politics


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