In Fire in Paradise, Alastair Gee and Dani Anguiano delve deep into multiple first-hand accounts of the Camp Fire which caused the rapid devastation of Paradise, a small town in Northern California, in November 2018.
After putting the history of Paradise and its wildfire evacuation plans into the context of California’s dry, fire-prone climate, Gee and Anguiano introduce the lives of various Paradise residents, many of whom are members of families rooted in this small rural place for generations. Through weaving these family stories together, they illuminate the rapid, untenable, random, apocalyptic nature of today’s wildfires.
The statistics of homes and lives lost showcased on the news get human faces and personalities. Evacuees fleeing flames carry beloved pets over their shoulders to wade through murky, frigid November waters. Meanwhile, homeowners hose down houses in the face of oncoming 30 foot walls of fire only to witness them burn from the inside out. Elsewhere first responders in bulldozers must push aside cars with burnt bodies still inside.
When the authors conclude by acknowledging the lack of adequate government support for the thousands of newly homeless Paradise residents, and recalling President Trump’s refusal to acknowledge climate change, the reader’s sense of loss and discomfort resembles the one provoked by Northern California’s smokey skies as they continue to glow an unnatural dark orange.
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