Still burning


Marathon, you've been out there in northern California. Reporting on the fires for vox, what exactly happened up there in paradise California as best as we can tell the fire ignited around six thirty AM near campfire road on Thursday, November eight this is in a region of California, that's kind of rural. It's far from some of the bigger cities. It's in the hills. It's very forested area. The areas are actually right next to a couple of national forests, and it's not very densely populated. But there are definitely a lot of trees and many of them were ripe to burn. They were essentially giant matchsticks? California's you may know has been facing years of drought upward of six years. And also bark beetle infestations that have been spreading since two thousand ten and that's led to a record number of dead trees throughout the state one hundred twenty nine million. The wind had been picking up their seasonal winds here in this area. That can gust up to seventy miles an hour. So at one point this fire was spreading a rate of about a football field per second. And right in the path of those. Flames was a town called paradise California. This is a small community of about twenty six thousand people. It's not very wealthy, but most people their own their own homes, a lot of trailer and mobile homes as well. And once the flame started approaching. I mean, very rapidly engulfed the town trees were running right between houses. And so residents reported hearing tree trunks exploding propane tanks going off sounding like bombs more than one person told me it sounded like a war zone. One woman. I spoke to Lana Jimenez. She told me that it was so surprising. The fire was burning away. She had never seen before it wasn't burning from the ground up. But rather it was blowing through the air. She described it as a can of spray pages sprang fire onto trees, the fire was flowing, basically horizontally through the air, and it was something that she had never seen before. I talked to a resident named roof Jenkins who kind of made it pretty clear just how fast this fire spread. I mean, she recalled waking up and seeing the sky turning orange trees all around out of the sky, but she took her kids to school. And by the time, she got back home. She realized the situation was a lot worse than so she scrambled back to school to pick up her children show up Ponderosa elementary school. And it's like a war zone. People can't find their kids. Teachers are frantically loading kids on us. They told me my kids who'd be all front. My kids worn out front. Luckily, I found him by the time that we got a home. The fire was all around our house. We didn't have time to get anything by husband grabbed my baby and his diaper through. All of our animals are cats dogs everything in all three cars that we possibly could since this is a small town. There aren't a whole lot of roads going in and out. And so that was already one big problem. And as they were getting out of town, you know, everybody in this twenty six thousand person town and also the small towns around it were on these narrow highways heading toward Chico away from the fire and very quickly. The highways became congested forcible there's a ton of smoke it hurts visibility. There's fire racing along the side of the highway as well. But just the traffic built-up up such that people were waiting hours and hours just to cover that narrow fifteen mile distance people ran out of gas people had to get out and run on foot broke Jenkins told me that she had to get out of her car and try to retrieve her children who are in a separate car further back street starting to fall around us. My kids were separated in a different. Car. I had EMT blocking means how I couldn't get to my kids. So I started walking down the road and left. My husband and our dogs inside. Conroy elementary school. Evacuation orders for the carnage. They save you need back you into poem on one one. It was a very heroin escape and a lot of people barely made it out. And unfortunately, it turns out many people did not host to eighty people have died, and it's kind of alarming how died several of them did die in their own vehicles. Trying to flee the fire which just kind of shows how quickly it moved. And how even people who are in cars couldn't get out of harm's way. Fast enough at this point the campfire is still burning. It has torched more than one hundred fifty thousand acres more than ten thousand homes. It's force more than fifty two thousand people to evacuate, and it's left about a thousand missing officials say that this these are people that family members and friends have reported missing. And they're just not accounted for. So we really don't know what their current status is workers are still searching house by house to look for human remains that number might still go up. It might go down. We don't know yet. We're still in the early stages of getting through this fire and. Appaling with what it's done. So these fifty thousand evacuees where are they gonna go? That's the big question right now, it's kind of ad hoc some have taken shelter in nearby, Chico. Some have gone south to Yuba city some have gone north to red bluff a lot of the small towns in the area are housing many of the evacuees, but remember these are small towns, they don't really have a lot of room to take in a whole bunch of people and this is an area that's already been afflicted by California's housing crisis as well. There's very limited new homes going up. So in some cases, we've had residents just camping out in tents outside of parking lots. I mean, it's important to remember why people move to paradise in the first place. I mean, this was an affordable town that was close to nature. It was a place where people could actually own their own homes were middle class and working class. People could actually afford to live, and it was lovely. Lot of residents love being close to nature for a lot of folks. Even after this fire, even knowing what could possibly happen. Their main goal is to go back and rebuild paradise. Conal Brian needs a friend after twenty five years hosting late night, TV Conan realized that the only people who are coming to holiday party were the people who work for him and over the years despite doing thousands of interviews Conan never really made any lasting friendships with any of his celebrity guests. So he is now started a podcast to do just that if you've ever wanted to hear cocoa, go deeper, go more playful and go free from FCC regulations. This is the show for you Conan O'Brien hangs out with the people whose company he's enjoyed most over the years in an attempt to find some real lasting friendship. The first guest on the show, someone you may have heard of his name appears to be will for rail cutting O'Brien needs a friend wherever you find your podcasts. Mary you're in paradise. You've been in northern California covering these fires for the past week. What's it like there? I mean, what does it smell like smoke ash? What's what's in the air? Well, if you've been to the Bayer, you know, it's notorious for its fog, but this is a kind of as that persists throughout the day, and it's dense, and it actually kind of hurts to breathe in in San Francisco, the air quality as reached unhealthy levels you see people walking around wearing masks. And then as you go further north closer to where the fire is they are just gets denser thicker and more dangerous in Chico. It looks like at sunset throughout the whole day. I mean, the smoke they're just kind of obscures the sunlight and Basques the town in this kind of golden twilight the air there, smells, dusty and dry actually kind of sweet as well. 'cause you know, we're burning trees here and trees, actually, don't smell all that bad when they burn. But those particles are still extremely dangerous. You see children playing outside wearing masks. If you stand still long enough, I mean, you'll you might notice that you're getting covered in a little bit of dust. And then if you get closer and closer to where the fire actually burned inside paradise where I went there still ash falling from trees, there's a thin layer of dust on the road. Everything has sort of this gray haze to it. And it's just very ethereal. And it's also extremely quiet. There aren't even leaves rustling most of those have burned away. So it's just brick chimneys standing among forests these burned out dead trees and all around you have workers in white suits probing. The remains with cadaver dogs just hoping maybe that they can identify. If anybody else was left behind. You engine kids playing outside. Is it still is is a dangerous to be outside in California. I mean, how bad is the air quality at one point the air in northern California with some of the worst in the world. And when air quality gets that hazardous. Yeah. Is dangerous. I mean, the recommendation is not to go outside unless you absolutely have to for people who have breathing difficulties problems like emphysema or even asthma that can lend you in the emergency room. It can also exacerbate issues like high blood pressure can aggravate things like heart attacks. So yeah, it's definitely a risk and people are being constantly exposed to. I mean, a lot of the stores right now in that area are sold out of these and ninety five masks the masks that are rated to protect against the kinds of particles that are in the air right now. So there's a looming health concern. I mean, if you walk around where some many of the evacuees are staying you'll hear coughing all throughout and you've got this fire burning in northern California. And. Making a mess of air quality. There's also a fire burning in southern California. Right. Yeah. That's right. There's the Wolseley fire close to Los Angeles that's burning through shrub land and grassland, and yeah that's causing a lot of damage there as well. But not quite on the same scale as they can't fire in the north Trump. Visit northern California over the weekend. He was walking around with governor Jerry Brown governor elect Gavin Newsom as big as they look on the tube. You don't see what's going on. But did you come here? And what we saw at pleasure. What am right now? But what would your so we just left pleasure? Cardis. It will just at paradise is just. Just not acceptable. He, of course, tweeted, there's no reason for these massive deadly and costly forest. Fires in California, except that force management is so poor billions of dollars giving each year with so many lives lost all because of gross mismanagement of the forests remedy now or no more federal payments. He actually holding money from California during this statewide emergency. No, he hasn't actually made good on that threat. He has approved emergency disaster aid for California. But his point they're just about, you know, blaming forest. Fires. I saying that there's no reason for this other than mismanagement it's important to remember that forest. Fires are natural. They are part of the ecosystem even without humans being there. It's something that would happen pretty frequently and regularly. It's an important way to clear out dying brush, it's important way to help certain plants germinated helps restore store nutrients to the soil. There are some issues with how that land is being managed though. As people have moved closer and closer to forest. The strategy has been to suppress fires rather than to allow them to burn naturally. This is to protect property and to protect people's lives. By the consequence of that is that trees build up the forest becomes more dense and a lot of decaying brush starts building up. And then when you have years of drought all that dries out, and that leaves a huge volume of fuel that's just ripe to burn leading to larger and more destructive fires. So the paradox here or sort of the irony here is that our habit of trying to put out fires aggressively has helped fuel some of the larger more dangerous blazes. But who's actually at fault? Here. Who manages these forests is at the state is at municipal dese who's who's doing a good or bad job of taking care of this. That is a big problem. I mean, there are three main interested parties here there are the private landowners, people who own property and homes and businesses. There's the state of California which manages some of the forest, and then there's the federal government which. Manages some of the forest all three can control or have jurisdiction over some parts of the forest and all three of them have competing interests, and they have different strategies for managing these forests. And that kind of leads to some of the conflicts that we're kind of dealing with right now big issue, though, is that as far as we know most of the fires were actually burning on federal land. So it's not something you can actually blame on California's land management practices to Donald Trump is talking shit about California's management of its forests when the majority of this land is actually controlled by the federal government. That's right. It's controlled by the US force reservists or it's being managed under the department of the interior and since they're under federal jurisdiction. California doesn't really isn't allowed to go in there and start cutting down trees that they think are dangerous and in recent years, the federal government has been cutting funding for fire suppression programs and also forced management programs in the Trump administration, though has called for more logging. And they've pitched that as. As an alternative or as as a solution to this. But it really isn't because loggers want the biggest and healthiest trees that have the most resale values the big problem that we're facing right now are these dead trees, those have very little resale value. But they're the ones that are the biggest threat, and it's really hard to get any private company. Interested in cutting down, these Deb useless trees, and there's one hundred twenty nine million of them. So you have it's a huge endeavour to try to limit these fire hazards is there any chance that the president's trip to California could like foster some better federal state relationship that might help prevent these kinds of fires in the future. I don't think the president is going to be playing too close of a role, but interior secretary Ryan Zinke was also here last week. My fourth time to California all which had been fires. And every time I come back and say, this is the worst fire. I've seen yesterday is the worst fire I've seen and Zeki himself. Also, you know said some. A controversial things about the fires. He blamed environmental terrorist groups for increasing fire risks, but he's used to have more of a grasp as to what the factors are here. This is not the time for finger pointing this is the time to make sure that we address putting out the fire. We look at paradise to make sure we look at who's on accountable. Make sure we give aid whereas necessary and begin beginning recovery process, in some cases, it's going to be long. So that like the introduce the great governor. Is the state taking anything away from this are people taking anything away from this anything to be learned from from all of his loss. I think so I think looking at a fire like this. Where all the worst case scenarios all converged. It kind of shows what happens if we do nothing if we continue doing business as usual approach to how we live among fires how we live with this risk if we continue building in these high risk areas if we continue driving up the temperatures around the world, and if we continue not actively managing the forest and reducing the fuel loads. All that means is in the future. We're going to continue to see larger more destructive and potentially deadly. Fires. Who may our earth reports on the environment and climate for? I'm Sean Ramos firm. This is today explained. Spencer hall. You're the host of the seem smart podcast from that's be nations on the vox media podcast network. How did you kick off the season of it seems smart? We started the season with the tail of Albert bell and the great bat caper. This involves a major league baseball player filling a bat with cork, which you're not supposed to do getting it comes gated by the officials and then one brave teammate deciding to get it back by committing an act of cat burglary through the roof of major league ballpark. What what team was this again? This would be the Cleveland Indians in nineteen ninety four versus the Chicago White Sox Spencer. I feel like I'm starting to pick up a theme of the podcast, which is everyone in professional sports looking for ways to get ahead and cheat. Yeah. And one other theme of the podcast is that typically when people try to do this. It goes sideways fast. Okay. So people can find that one. That was the first one that kicked off the season. That's the first one you can find it. I tune Stitcher wherever you get your podcast. Just, you know, search for it seems smart. Art of the vox media podcast network from Espy nation dot com.

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