People prepared. Fire prevention officials planned. They drilled. They worked with homeowners. They invented fire-safe councils and Fire on the Ridge and sent fire prevention officials to schools via a program called Fire Pals. They raised money to keep fire lookouts open when the state said it wouldn’t.
Eventually, geography and topography proved to be the trap everyone thought it was.
Paradise and Magalia sit on top of a pine-studded ridge between several canyons. There are very few subdivisions. Instead, homes are built one at a time and tucked into trees. Fly over the area in a helicopter and those trees stand like matchsticks surrounding well-hidden homes.
Most cities have grass. Paradise’s predominant ground covering is pine needles — extremely flammable pine needles.
It wasn’t a well-planned city, but rather a village that grew into a city. The grid pattern of Paradise’s roads is haphazard. There are few arterials. Instead, there are two-lane roads without much connectivity. When people tried to evacuate in a flash, those bottlenecks were pronounced. Several people died in their cars, trapped by gridlock.
The large roads leading out of town aren’t large. Only Skyway is two lanes in both directions. Two summers ago, the town decided to turn Skyway from four lanes to two in the downtown area to “calm” traffic and make things more quaint. That couldn’t have helped the escape.