Fire in Paradise Documentary: Delayed Awareness, Failed Use of Reverse 9-1-1 “CodeRED” and Death, Disaster and Town Destroyed in 4 Hours


A year after the devastating Camp Fire, PBS FRONTLINE examines who is to blame for the response results of the Camp Fire, also known as the Paradise Fire (Premiered Oct 29, 2019).

About 7.5 miles northeast of Paradise, California, a fire started underneath an electricity transmission tower with ignition believed to be about 6:25 a.m. PST on November 8, 2019. The fire was reported at 6:33 a.m. by a PG&E Rock Creek Powerhouse worker. Firefighters had initial eyes on the vegetation fire about 6:44 a.m.

The fire destroyed Paradise in four hours that morning on November 8, 2018.

Fires burned in Paradise for two weeks until rain fell, and declared 100% contained on November 25, 2018.

The fire burned 153,000 — an area the size of Chicago.

Alerting methods failed.

9-1-1 Dispatcher to Cal Fire: “Can you confirm with me that this is north of Concow, that this is not in Paradise? People say there’s ashes falling.”

CAL FIRE to 9-1-1 Dispatcher: “Yes, it’s north of Concow.”

Initially 9-1-1 operators were not aware of the fire’s threat to Paradise, California, and were telling eventual victims that the fire was not a threat. Cal Fire told 9-1-1 dispatchers that the fire was not a threat — even when Paradise 9-1-1 called Cal Fire to double-check and ask if there was a threat. Initially the threat of the fire was believed to be passing north at Concow, California.

Resident calling 9-1-1 about smoke: “How come we’re not seeing this on the news, or sirens or something?

9-1-1 Dispatcher: “It’s because it’s still new. It’s north of Highway 70 …”

— 9-1-1 Call 7:39 AM

Resident asking about evacuation: “Are we supposed to be evacuated?”

9-1-1 Dispatcher: “No, you’ll be notified; there’s a fire north of Concow. No danger to Paradise, OK?”

— 9-1-1 Call 7:41 AM

Paradise resident: “It’s raining ash, how far out is the fire?”

9-1-1 Dispatcher: “So, at this point we’re, you’re not in danger.”

— 9-1-1 Call 7:54 a.m. (about 90 minutes after the fire was initially reported just after 6:25 a.m.)

Police Dispatcher to Police Officers: “All units be advised, the town of Paradise is under mandatory evacuation.”

— Paradise Police Dispatch 8:02 AM

After the fire had already entered the east end of Paradise at approximately 8:00 a.m., Butte County Fire notified the Paradise Police Department at about 8:18 a.m. that a mandatory evacuation was issued.

Evacuation routes were inadequate. A Butte County study had provided that widened roads were needed to provide adequate evacuation routes, but funds were not available.

Officials failed to provide an all-call evacuation and evacuated residents in pre-planned zones. Officials thought that evacuating all zones simultaneously would congest the roads and slow down evacuation. Roads were congested and evacuation routes were slowed or stalled anyway.

This news organization’s review found problems at every level: Many residents didn’t sign up for the system, officials didn’t trigger warnings for every neighborhood, and overloaded or damaged cellular networks often failed to deliver warnings to the intended recipient. Meanwhile, flames engulfed the region with stunning speed, leaving little room for error.

A review of alerts issued by the county and Paradise police in the hours after the fire started Nov. 8 shows— inexplicably — that no evacuation orders were issued by the county to one 6-square-mile swath of the city. A separate 4-mile stretch of Paradise received merely a warning; the order to flee came 7.5 hours later, long after homes were reduced to ashes.

— Daily Democrat (Woodland, CA)

“When seconds count, be fully informed and continuously updated.” (Company tagline)

“With CodeRED, state and local agencies can deliver geo-targeted, time-sensitive information to individuals who have registered to receive alerts. Notifications can be sent via email, SMS, voice, mobile app push notifications, IPAWS and more depending on the severity of the situation.”

Registration for CodeRED is available Google, Facebook or Twitter (It’s uncertain what happens to notifications or how people change their address information if they become suspended by Facebook or Twitter)

CodeRED reverse 9-1-1 sign-ups were inadequate as more than half of residents of Paradise, California had not signed up for Code Red. According to PBS, many residents who had signed up for “Code Red” didn’t received a notification. Notification failures were compounded by the loss of 17 cell towers from fire damage.

The fire killed 85 people, injured 12 civilians and injured 5 firefighters. One person was reported missing.

52,000 people were evacuated.

18,804 buildings were destroyed.

Drought was a factor in the cause of the fire. Paradise, which normally averages five inches of rain each summer, recorded only 0.14 inch from the end of May until November 12, 2018. An obvious speculation is that the drought was intensified by climate change.

Aging PG&E equipment and failure to temporarily turn off power in high fire-risk weather conditions caused the ignition of dry vegetation.

“Ultimately people have to be responsible for their own safety. The best person to craft an evacuation plan for you is you.”

— Kory Honea, Butte County Sheriff

See also … | Deadly Camp Fire Did Not Prompt an Emergency Alert

Daily Democrat | Wildfire alert system failed



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