A documentary about the Camp Fire at Paradise, California

Camp Fire Documentary
Screen grab from the Camp Fire Documentary

There will probably be numerous documentaries released about the Camp Fire that erased much of Paradise, California as it killed at least 86 people and destroyed over 14,000 homes. Below is one of the first.

The fire will be an important part of California history, but it remains to be seen if it will be eclipsed in the next few years by even more unimaginable and disastrous fires as the climate becomes warmer and more prone to extreme events.

The film below, produced by Paradise-area film maker Golden Eagle Films, contains many interviews with residents that survived the inferno.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Dave. Typos or errors, report them HERE.

Why did a 99-year old power line fail, igniting the Camp fire?

Investigators have removed parts of a transmission tower to examine more closely

Investigators are zeroing in on their goal to determine exactly what caused molten aluminum and metal to drop from a 115,000-volt PG&E power line tower at about 6:15 a.m. on November 8 near Poe Dam seven miles east of Paradise, California. A few hours later most of the town had been reduced to ashes as 50 mph winds pushed the wildfire through the community, killing at least 85 people and making thousands homeless.

As reported by an article in the Mercury News, something failed on the tower, causing a power line to get loose and whip around, striking metal which instantly heated, melted, and dropped to the ground igniting the vegetation. It could have been “a tiny O-ring that holds up rows of disc-shaped insulators, or possibly fatigued steel from one of the tower’s arms”, the article explains. The tower was built in 1919 which raises the possibility of worn out parts and metal fatigue. CAL FIRE has removed some pieces from the tower to examine further.

The newspaper also reports that CAL FIRE is investigating a possible second point of ignition below a PG&E lower voltage distribution line that occurred about half an hour after the first failure.

The Camp Fire started 13 months after the disastrous fires that burned in the Napa Valley in October of 2017. There are reports that at least 12 of them were caused by Pacific Gas & Electric power lines.

On 60 Minutes Chief Pimlott describes the rapid rate of spread of the Camp Fire

Camp Fire at Paradise California
Chief of CAL FIRE Ken Pimlott explains on 60 Minutes how the rapid rate of spread of the Camp Fire at Paradise, California. Screenshot from 60 Minutes video.

This is a 1 minute clip from a piece on Sunday’s edition of 60 Minutes in which Ken Pimlott, Chief of CAL FIRE, describes how the Camp Fire was growing during its first burning period at “one football field per second”. I assume he means it was consuming 1.3 acres per second which is the size of an American football field, rather than the rate of spread of the flaming front. The video shows one of those cool sand tables onto which a computer projects a spreading wildfire. They are excellent for training exercises and modeling fire behavior.

This clip was taken from a very good 10 to 15 minute piece on Sunday’s 60 Minutes about the Camp Fire, and is worth checking out. You can see the entire 42-minute show on the CBS website including the section on the fire, but you’ll have to watch the commercials.

List of unaccounted for in Camp Fire reduced to 11

Businessman gives $1,000 to each student at Paradise High School

Camp Fire Paradise area
Camp Fire, Paradise area. Butte County photo.

After reaching a high of more than 1,300 people, the number that are unaccounted for in the Camp Fire near Paradise, California has shrunk to just 11. Below are the last names, first names, age and  location if known:

  1. Baker, Harriett, Oroville
  2. Banks, Darla
  3. Casilla, John, 50-60, Paradise
  4. Cody, Florence, Paradise
  5. Demianew, John, 54, Paradise
  6. Fabila-Martinez, Sara, 50, Paradise
  7. Krug, Wendy, 46, Paradise
  8. Ruel, Devon, Chico
  9. Saubaysa (Sabalsa), Noe (Alejandro), 23
  10. Sparks, Johnm, Paradise
  11. Tafoya, Noelle

The Sheriff’s Office asks those who are listed and are safe to call the missing persons call center at 530-538-6570, 530-538-7544 or 530-538-7671.

The number of fatalities has been reduced to 85 after, according to the sheriff’s office,“remains originally thought to be separate cases have since been proved by DNA to be the same case.”

To see all of the articles on Wildfire Today about the Camp Fire, including the most recent, click HERE.

Of the 85 dead, three remain unidentified. Of those identified, 43 have been “positively identified,” with the rest still tentative, sometimes based on circumstantial evidence.

A San Diego businessman has given $1,000 checks to students and staff at Paradise High School.

Robert S. Wilson
Robert S. Wilson

From NPR:

“A San Diego businessman wanted to do something to help young people affected by the Camp Fire, which decimated the city of Paradise, Calif., earlier this month.

“So Bob Wilson came with two suitcases full of $1,000 checks – enough for each of Paradise High School’s 980 students and 105 staff members, including teachers, janitors and bus drivers.

“On a rainy Tuesday night, the students and staff from a town now dispersed showed up at nearby Chico High School, where Wilson handed out the checks — $1.1 million in all, according to The Associated Press.

“Wilson, 90, made his money in commercial real estate and shopping centers, and he’s also a partner in operating six Fish Market restaurants in California.”

Man sentenced to 5 years for burglarizing fire department truck during Carr Fire

Brian Martinson
Brian Martinson, Chico Police Department

A man who stole items from inside a Redding Fire Department truck during the Carr Fire at Redding, California received much more than the 1-year sentence plus probation recommenced by the Probation Department. Judge Cara Beatty gave Brian Daniel Martinson five years in county jail, according to the Shasta County District Attorney’s Facebook page.

Mr. Martinson had pleaded guilty to grand theft and committing the crime during a natural disaster.

Below is an excerpt from an article in the Redding Searchlight:

Martinson was accused of stealing items belonging to Redding firefighter Erick Mattson that were inside a fire department utility truck while it was parked in front of Mattson’s home.

Mattson was at his Palo Cedro home resting in between fighting the Carr Fire when Martinson broke into the truck.

In August, Martinson was arrested in Chico after being caught shoplifting from a Sportsman’s Warehouse. Officers there found Martinson with a backpack belonging to the firefighter and items from the fire department.

The stolen property included more than $5,000 worth of things that included a laptop and a hard drive containing family photos. Chico police said at the time the hard drive wasn’t located.

Butte County investigators questioned Martinson and he admitted to burglarizing the fire truck, the DA’s office said.

The Carr Fire started July 23, 2018, killed eight people and burned over 229,000 acres and 1,604 structures.

In a different but similar incident, the two men who were arrested on the first day of the Camp Fire for stealing a vehicle and other items from a fire station at Jarbo Gap November 8 have pleaded not guilty to the crimes. Robert DePalma and William Erlbacher, both of Concow, California are scheduled to appear in court December 6 for a preliminary hearing. They remain in custody with bail set at $250,000 each. More information about this incident is at the Chico Enterprise-Record.

The Camp Fire burned more than 153,000 acres at Paradise California, killed approximately 85 people (as of November 25, 2018), and destroyed over 14,000 homes.

Rain stops the spread of the Camp Fire

The blaze in Northern California is nearly contained

aerial photo Paradise Camp Fire
Aerial photo, off Herb Lane near Skyway in Paradise. From the Butte County drone mapping project.

Large quantities of rain that began Wednesday are helping firefighters contain the Camp Fire that devastated most of Paradise and the adjacent Concow community in Northern California. Rainfall in the last 72 hours in the county, Butte County, varied from 0.94″ to 7.10″.

To see all of the articles on Wildfire Today about the Camp Fire, including the most recent, click HERE.

CAL FIRE reports that the only uncontained section of the fire is in steep, rugged terrain that is unsafe for firefighters to access due to the heavy rains. There is indirect control line in that area and firefighters are monitoring the situation. Once safe to do so, crews will assess the situation and determine if direct line is necessary. The agency said the fire has burned 153,336 acres.

After the rain this week the Redding Searchlight quoted Stephen Horner, a public information officer for the Camp Fire, as saying, “The fire is out”. Large wildfires, especially megafires like this one, are not usually declared officially “out” until there is nothing burning anywhere within the perimeter. In spite of rain and snow, trees, roots, and logs can continue burning for months; some may overwinter and continue to burn into the following Spring.

The number of fatalities has risen to 84 with 475 reported as unaccounted for. Almost 14,000 homes have been destroyed.

This week some residents of Magalia were allowed to return to their homes, but other areas, especially in Paradise, are still under evacuation orders.

The rain has made it much more difficult to search through the ashes to find and recover bodies.

One of the primary tasks still facing firefighters is the removal of hazardous trees that are still standing but are dead or partially burned and likely to fall.

Agencies in Butte County have worked with cooperators to acquire aerial photography of the populated areas that were the most severely affected by the Camp Fire. On 500 drone flights they took 70,000 photos that have been georeferenced and formatted into a map. The still photos, videos, and 360-degree images can help residents check the status of their homes. It was a massive undertaking that was completed in just a couple of days by 16 drone teams and several organizations that used the data to produce the map and videos.

aerial photo Paradise Camp Fire
Near Orchard Drive in Paradise. From the Butte County drone mapping project.