Camp Fire, Paradise, CA


The Camp fire burns in the hills near Oroville, California, on Sunday.
Camp Fire, Butte County
Started November 8, 2018 - fully contained November 25, 2018
Burned 153,336 acres and destroyed 18,804 structures.
85 confirmed fatalities. Hundreds remain missing...
November 8th is a day that we will always remember. First of all, it's my mother's birthday. It started as a typical day, calling my mom to wish her a Happy Birthday. Neither of us knew at that time that the fire had just started. She called me back just a few minutes later to tell me that there was a bad fire in Paradise and my sister Lynette was on her way back home to get her husband Mike and the dogs and evacuate, quickly! Mike was busy hooking up the trailer and load up the dogs when she was talking with him. Lynette had gone to work as usual and as soon as she got to Chico, the fire was spreading quickly. The surrounding sky turned the area as dark as midnight. She quickly turned around and headed back up the Skyway to Paradise. She arrived just in time to get in the truck with the trailer that Mike had hitched up while she was on her way home, load up the dogs and drive. They had no time to gather anything and had to drive through flames to get out. Had they been another few minutes, I don't know if they would have made it. Thankfully, they got out in time...

The following is my recap of the fire and of the search.
I took all of the photos except the active fire and the overhead shots. 
This is a picture that was taken as they drove away from their home.



The fire was raging and burning anything in it's path.



I patiently waited for news, checking online as much as I can while at work. The news came quickly that the fire was raging and out of control. This was the big one that everyone had worried about in that area. With so many family members and friends living in Paradise, it took all that I had to keep it together. 

My nephew Alan was already at work at Sawmill Lumber, he never returned home to gather anything either. His fiancĂ© Danielle works at Feather River Hospital which was also reported to be on fire. He was able to go and get her from work and evacuate. All of this happening quickly, but with so much anxiety as roads were jammed and many were forced to abandon their vehicles and flee on foot. Some not ever making it out. 

Thankfully, all of my family and friends that live in Paradise made it out alive. I have yet to talk to anyone whose home was spared, but they are all ok. 

Paradise as we knew it, was quickly destroyed. 
(overhead pictures were taken by a local news station)


A mobile home park where every single home was destroyed, but one. Why they were passed over, who knows. We would pass 1,000 homes burned to the ground and then one would be untouched, and for no apparent reason. 


Over the course of the next few days, we held our breath to see how far it would spread and get confirmation if any homes were able to be saved as the fire was advancing towards Cherokee where my Dad and two sisters have homes. Chris and I had a previously planned trip to Sedona for a weekend of hiking. We decided to keep our plans and travel, but my heart and mind were still with my family and friends being affected by the fire. We started our hike up Wilson Mountain, I was distant and quiet, unlike my normal chatty self while hiking. I got halfway up the mountain and called my mom. She told me that it looked as though Cherokee would burn and my dad would also lose his house along with my two sisters that have homes there. I was having a hard time keeping it together as it was and this put me over the top, I lost it. I had to collect my thoughts and figure out what to do. We talked it over and decided that the best thing to do would be to cut the trip short and come home early. The earliest flight we could get was tomorrow morning as we were a couple of hours from the airport in Phoenix. We decided to finish out this hike and climb to the top of the mountain. On top of the peak, I felt like mother nature would be listening. I asked for a little help keeping those that I lose safe. I sure hoped that she was listening. My sisters home was already gone, but my dads home was  now in danger.  

We landed early on Saturday morning in Sacramento. From the sky, we could see a huge layer of smoke. It was an eerie sight from the air, but that was just the beginning. 

We drove to Chico straight from he airport. It looked like we were driving into Armageddon. We spent the day with family and offered support where we could. I think just being there was all that was needed. Sometimes that's all that you can do in times like this. Be together. We drove home that evening and would return again after gathering some items at home as the stores in the Chico area are empty. We also gathered many donation from friends and my coworkers. Everyone has been so generous.

We will make a list and I'll be back with  essentials to get them by for a bit and some work clothes for Lynette as she will try to go back to work on Tuesday.


Red Flag Warnings were still in place for several days as the fire inched closer and closer to Cherokee. After some very tense days, we got word that the forward progress was stopped. Ultimately, their property survived and is sitting right on the literal edge of the fire. This map was published a few days later, my dads home is the black dot. Had it burned any farther at all, they would also have lost their property and my 85 year old father would be homeless. Mother nature did listen. She held the fire right at their property. I am so thankful to all of the firefighters who risk their lives during such a catastrophic event to save property. Their properties were saved this day. 


We made the trip back to Chico on Friday pulling our teardrop trailer and a full truck load of donated items and essentials for everyone that we could help.  It looked as if we were driving into pea soup. Michael and I wore n95 masks even in the car, it was hard to breathe. 

The air quality on this day was the worst in the world and in areas where the wind was blowing smoke into, air quality index reached 1400. In Chico this day, it was 546. 

The fire is continuing to burn... 

Search Day 1 - 11/16/18
Friday - Team Echo 2 - Zone 6 - Segment Q

I answered the callout for Search and Rescue to search through the burned out buildings for those that had perished. The fire moved so quickly and many were unable to evacuate as they were probably caught sleeping or elderly and had no way to leave. It's the deadliest fire in California history and many will be forever lost. The remains being scorched to dust in the incinerating heat of the devastating fire.
We donned Tyvek suits, helmets, safety glasses, leather gloves and respirators. The air and everything around is toxic as cars, chemicals, asbestos and everything that we have in our homes is now particulate. For days, we search and search. Being as thorough as we can as we sift through an entire house that is all now the color gray and white. It all looks the same. 

Morning Briefing 0800
Daily, more than 500 volunteers, National Guard, US Army, Cal Fire and other local Fire Agencies all come together in this massive effort to find the missing. I was able to participate in the search for two days. It's a daunting task. Searching through what may have been a townhouse, a single family home, mobile home, a large 2-story estate or apartment. They were all reduced to a few inches of dust. No wood to be seen, it was more drywall and nails, with the search in each structure for bed coils and recliners as this is where many are being found. 


Friday we searched an area from Buschmann to Pearson along Clark Road.

This map will soon be covered with X's and for searched and H's for unable to search because of Hazards.




A townhouse complex. Mostly all we could see were framing, nails and water heaters.






A piano...

A picture that ended up in an NBC news article. I'm in the red helmet on the right.


Search Day 2 - 11/17/18
Saturday - Team Echo 2 - Zone 12 - Segment H

Saturday's briefing. The Incident Command has been moved to a HUGE camp in Oroville.


Saturday, we searched an area from Nunneley to Elliott starting at Ingalls working East, this is where the trailer park below was located.

A view from the air of a trailer park that we searched. 
From the ground, it looks a little different... (see below)

In many of these homes, all that was left were the nails, sheetrock and large appliances. 

The car has been removed, but there are quite a few puddles of aluminum. 




Mobile homes burn so hot that they warp that large steel beams that support the structure. 


Lots of puddles of melted metal

Inside the cab of a car.

Pots and plants are gone, dirt remains. 


A fence post was here. Fences are completely gone. 
There isn't even any ash. Inside the whole is concrete. 

Raised foundations fall down into the crawlspace. These are difficult. So many hazards and nails. 


Photo Credit Dorian Hermann EDSAR

A tree that has burned and it burned the roots and all. Weird that there isn't even any ash in the hole. 


Steel belts from the tire and a melted rim.



Our tracks from the day. 
We split our team into 2 teams of 3 and each covered one side of the street. 
This is our half. 

Search Day 3 - 11/24/18
Deputy Frisbee is our coordinator for the day.
Deployed to Concow for a targeted search. 
These are done to specific properties where a missing person has been reported. 
Morning briefing. The Incident Command has now been moved to the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds, Chico.

As the search continues, things like PPE checkout is getting more and more organized. This is where we get our Tyvek suits, gloves, ventilators, orange spray paint, wipes, rakes and shovels. There is another building dedicated to lunches, water and gatorade. 

We were deployed to Concow and staging was at Scooters near Jarbo Gap. 


A double wide was here. PG&E crews on the hillside above stringing new power lines. They are everywhere and working around the clock to restore power. It's amazing to watch how fast they can set poles and string lines. 

We had to do a grid search of the entire grounds of the property. The rains made the hillsides very muddy and slippery. 

I haven't taken pics of lunch until now. I should have because they look like this or more every day. This was taken AFTER I had eaten and was already stuffed. Note the half eaten sandwich and Tahoe bar. 

Everything along the road is blackened. Very few trees left. 

Spent a cozy night in the teardrop "Ruby"

Search Day 4 - 11/25/18
Sunday - Alpha 13 - Team Hotel 1 - Magalia, CA
Deputy Coordinator  was Deputy Lasagna from Placer County
Alpha teams breakout meeting for assignments. 

The "before" picture. 

The material we are searching through. Mostly drywall and nails.

These targeted searched are done in a meticulous manor. Search through and remove all of the contents of the house, down to the dirt. Laborious work. Good thing I have done years of yard fit. I know how to use a rake and shovel, very well. 

Making progress. Tyvek suits do not breath at all. Sweaty...

After we've disturbed and turned a lot of the contents, the canines were brought back in for another pass over the property. 


We removed most of the contents and put them here. 
Amazing that this is all that is left of an entire house. 

Now to tackle the garage.



A neighboring property.


Today's lunch. Again, AFTER I'd already eaten the sandwich. We worked hard today and I earned a few more items of this buffet today. 
There are so many properties to search and people to recover. I wish I could stay and contribute many more days to this extraordinary effort to find those that have perished. However, I have to go back home. Depending on the length of the continued search, I may be back to continue to help. 

Back to Paradise...

I was able to check on Lynette's house. There aren't any houses in this area that survived. 
Keller Lane


The neighbor has a garage that looks like it may have survived. 

Lynette's house

Front yard was full of chopped wood from a fallen tree. It's all gone. 

The central part of her house. 

Garage with Mike's mustang. 

Neighbors properties

Another neighbor

A quick, I mean quickly moving video. Sorry for the bad photography, I was in a rush to get back to my assignment. 

Alan's house next door. He just had this built and moved in only a few months ago. 

Mike's mom, Becky's house. Located on S. Libby. It's like it was never there. 

A video from Pearson to the end of S. Libby, Paradise, CA

More pics from around town driving North on Clark Road











Safeway 

The aerial view of Safeway taken from a local news crew.

KFC is no more. 


Michael's favorite pizza place in town. He was glad to hear it survived. 

Amazing pictures of the Camp Fire. These are not mine, but I wanted a place to post them. 














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