The destruction of Paradise

The headlines seem like they’re part of a disaster movie.

Paradise destroyed: Camp Fire leaves small California town in ashes

More than 1,000 people now listed as missing in California’s deadliest fire

View from space: Camp Fire burns through Paradise

Nearly 10,000 homes were destroyed in the Camp Fire wildfire, making it the state’s most destructive fire in history. Also the deadliest, with 71 people killed so far and hundreds still missing as brave rescue workers go through the rubble in search of human remains. Even the name of the town consumed in the blaze makes you want to believe it’s fiction: Paradise. The irony is painful. A whole community devoured by flames.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images, Top photo by David Paul Morris/Bloomberg/Getty

With their town gone, many of the residents are instantly homeless and have nowhere to go. Hundreds of evacuees are living in tents in a Walmart parking lot in nearby Chico. What comes next, nobody knows. There’s already a housing shortage in the area and housing in Northern California is already pretty pricey.

As of Saturday morning, Cal Fire reported the following numbers about the Camp Fire:

  • Location: Butte County
  • 148,000 acres burned
  • 55 percent contained
  • 71 fatalities confirmed
  • 11,862 structures destroyed (including homes)

Southern California residents haven’t been immune from wildfires – the same day the Camp Fire started – Nov. 8 – Southern California was also on fire. There were two fires – the Hill Fire and the Woolsey Fire. As of Friday morning, the Hill Fire was reported to be fully contained. The fire scorched 4,531 acres and destroyed four structures. Nobody was hurt. The Woolsey Fire, however, is still burning and caused much more devastation.

Today’s numbers about the Woolsey Fire Cal Fire:

  • Location: Los Angeles County, Ventura County
  • 98,362 acres burned
  • 82 percent contained
  • 3 fatalities confirmed
  • 836 structures destroyed, 57,000 in danger

Part of the area affected by the Woolsey Fire is Malibu, which is home to many celebrities, several who made headlines after tweeting about their evacuation. The flames burned indiscriminately, sweeping through neighborhoods, completely destroying one house while singeing the fence of a neighbor’s house two doors down.  Among the celebrities who lost their homes were  Miley Cyrus, Neil Young and Gerard Butler. Many others, like Cher, Lady Gaga and the Kardashians were also evacuated. It’s a reminder that despite wealth or fame, we are all vulnerable humans and are not immune to tragedy.

The cause for all three of these fires are still under investigation. Did any of them start with an individual’s carelessness? A camp fire not completely put out, a lit cigarette butt discarded through an open car window, a shoddy electrical job? Is it possible that one person forever changed so many people’s lives by causing a fire through what seemed like an insignificant action?

After the fires are fully contained, there will be much work to do. Lives to rebuild, hearts to heal, basic needs to replenish. Let’s not forget those who are hurting and try to help them. This isn’t a disaster movie where we watch with anticipation and then breathe with relief as the credits roll that it was all pretend. This is very real. Our own actions, however insignificant they may seem to be, can make a difference.

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