A week ago Paradise was a town of more than 25,000 people in Northern California. After the conflagration of the Camp Fire, the town has been effectively destroyed, with almost all homes and businesses burned away.
Paradise had been founded in the mid-1800s by gold prospectors and lumber workers, and slowly and steadily grew, hosting its Johnny Appleseed Days and finally incorporating as a city in 1979.
The town, like most in California, had seen fires before; this was different. Hurricane-force Santa Ana winds blew huge flames into the town, giving very little forewarning of the need to evacuate. The worst of the fire struck when many were still attempting to flee.
The Butte County sheriff confirmed a total of 42 dead as of Monday night. There are still more than 225 people whose fate is uncertain.
It is not the only fire in California, although it is by far the deadliest, both currently and in the state’s history. It is currently estimated to be 30 percent contained, but there are fears that further high winds may break some of that containment.
The other fire that is generating significant attention is the Woolsey Fire, which has struck Malibu, killing two and destroying homes, including homes of celebrities. That fire is only 25 percent contained, and there are similar fears of the weather causing containment breach.
As covered in the Trump Tweets, President Trump has weighed in on the fires, initially angering the local government and firefighters’ union by assigning blame while firefighters were in the process of risking their lives to minimize loss of life and property.
Fires in the Malibu area are fairly common, but that in no way diminishes the impact on those affected.
The cause of the Camp blaze is as yet uncertain, but it is believed that the trigger may have been a downed utility transformer which was not promptly repaired. That suspicion caused an investor pullback which contributed to the major stock market losses of Monday.