Inferno in Paradise
This California town of 27,000 literally went up in smoke in the nation’s deadliest wildfire in a century. The death toll is in the dozens, and many more are missing. And memories are all that’s left for many of the survivors. With flames moving at speeds up to three football fields per-minute, the town was quickly decimated. With short, or even little notification, many residents never made it out.
The ashen scenes are reminiscent of nuclear tests. In all, the 2018 California fire season burned approximately 1.7 million acres (650,000 hectares) of land. More than 15,000 structures have been destroyed in apocalyptic scenes of ash, rubble and cinder, where the prospects of community reconstruction for all but the wealthiest victims, may prove to be a line too far.
Recent conditions have boosted the risks. Years of drought exacerbated by global warming have left its forests achingly dry and littered with dead trees. And because there has been a policy of suppressing wildfires to protect homes and businesses in the state since the early 1900s, the landscape is now unusually dense with shrubs and young trees that would otherwise have been burned off by naturally occurring blazes. Fire experts, who have long spoken out about the danger, don’t see this as vegetation – they see it as fuel.