• Bright Eyes

World On Fire

Updated: Sep 6, 2021

California Wildfires Then and Now

Written by: Bright Eyes

Wild Fire Devastated Paradise, California 2018

This fire is personal. My gut still clinches when I smell smoke or hear open flames in a campfire. And the name Campfire, it’s always a constant reminder of the total death and destruction that occurred on that early morning in November of 2018. My son woke me at 6:45am, and we ran outside to look to the east to see an impenetrable wall of black that l first mistook for thunderclouds, but when I looked again, I could see the blazing red of the ridge of Paradise on fire. I knew that if the fire was already there, much of Paradise was Lost.

My brother and sister-in-law lived there. My heart sank as I dialed my mom’s number, hoping that they made it out. She picked up instantly, and I knew it wasn’t good. She was screaming that my brother was trapped in their car on the main road that was burning, Pearson Rd. and walls of flames were everywhere, and they had no way to turn. My sister-in-law was crying, and my brother was driving like a madman, jumping curbs, and driving on sidewalks to get through. They saw cars burning and knew some didn’t make it out. My brother knew all the backroads, and they could hear the propane tanks at the hospital exploding behind them. He said it sounded like what he imagined the beaches of Normandy did on D-day. They made it out, and we all cried with relief; we also cried because of all the life lost on that day.

That was the Paradise Campfire in November of 2018. It was started by faulty equipment owned by Pacific Gas and Electric, and PG&E pled guilty to 84 separate counts of involuntary manslaughter and one felony count of unlawfully starting a fire, with the destruction of 19,000 buildings. PG&E waived their rights to appeal the case, after it was found that their company repeatedly ignored warnings about the aging power lines and faulty maintenance, while failing to adhere to state regulations.

After the courts handed the verdict over, the fines were $3.5 million that the prosecutors could get under law, and another $25.5 billion that will be for settling with the victims, their families, Butte County agencies, attorneys’ fees. Butte County prosecutor Michael Ramsey noted that this is the first time PG&E, or any utility has been charged with homicide as the result of a reckless fire.