Every burned town is tragic. But Newsom needs to lead with science, not sentiment.
“Burned Towns” is now a regular feature in this newspaper’s Opinion section.
The Town of Paradise, on the west foothills of the Sierra Nevada, is a beautiful, mostly unincorporated community of about 800 people where houses line up like children’s blocks.
There are four churches, two restaurants, two coffee shops and a community theater. Two gas stations, one grocery store, three auto body shops, two small banks and a convenience store. A few doctors, a dentist, a lawyer, a dentist’s office, two small hotels and a church.
Paradise is also a very hot place in the summer, especially in the foothills, where the temperatures climb above 100 degrees at least twice a month. And because of a combination of dry air, high temperatures and low humidity, it’s a place where firefighters are called up, as they were on May 24 when, in the middle of the day, a small fire broke out in the woods behind Paradise High School. The school is about a mile from the fire scene, at the north end of town, and a mile from the county line with Nye County.
It was a small fire, burning at a rate of about 4 acres a minute. But, as the fire started, it grew to about 20 acres in a matter of minutes. It eventually spread into some 500 acres, with flames reaching almost to Paradise High School and sending school buses and other vehicles into the air as they tried to fight the blaze.
The fire jumped the county line—to the north side—and the fire jumped to the side of Paradise High School and, almost immediately, in front of Paradise Fire Hall.
It’s a very hot area, so that’s how fast it spread.
The fire department’s firefighters got it under control within a few minutes, and the fire department got the fire under control in a little over the hour that news of the fire spread.
But the fire was out of control.
It burned almost all of Paradise. And it also put a scare into the small town of Paradise, California.
It was, according to Newsom, arson.
It was arson.