Paradise Fire Department's progress 18 months after the Camp Fire

Today marks 18 months since the Camp Fire and town leaders are still working towards the recovery of Paradise

Posted: May 8, 2020 5:31 PM
Updated: May 8, 2020 5:37 PM

PARADISE, Calif. - Today marks 18 months since the Camp Fire and town leaders are still working towards the recovery of Paradise.

Action News Now reporter Christina Vitale sat down with Paradise Fire Chief John Messina to talk about where the department stands a year and a half after the Camp Fire.

Messina says since the Camp Fire the department has reassessed some of their response criteria.

The fire safe council and zone captains are helping deliver that information, with hopes the message will trigger property owners to take initiative on practices like defensible safe and fuel management on their own.

Messina says in terms of how the department prepares for wildfire season, not much has changed it’s a matter of if the public will pay attention to the education they’re providing.

"I think since the Camp Fire we’re seeing a little heightened sense of awareness when it comes to the public, but there's no better advertisement about the threat of wildland fire than a wildland fire itself," he said.

Messina says the department purchase a wildland fire engine to access remote portions of the town quicker.

They also received a grant from the federal government to increase staffing for the next 3 years.

Messina says a designated group is working to implement an early warning system for evacuations, once the plan is designed organizers will seek funding.

"The rebuild and the regrowth of the town has met all of our expectations and super seeded them in some aspects," he said.

Messina says they’ve changed their approach to the public with fire safety education.

"One of the biggest changes we are now messaging out is it doesn’t matter if you’ve received an evacuation order or not if you feel threatened you should immediately evacuate," he said.

A group is working towards a new evacuation plan for butte county communities that will come out in the next couple of weeks.

"We were hoping to get them already, but the coronavirus slowed down the progress of producing those," Messina said.

Some of the changes won't be obvious to the community members.

"Changes on how we move vehicles through an evacuation area that we learned just specifically through the Camp Fire and some of the past fires," he said. "We were able to sit down and go through the plan and say this didn’t make sense to the public this happened this didn’t and we were able to mold the plan."

Chris Smith, a survivor, gave his input on wildfire preparations, "They can plan they can think they can get resources they can have reactions ready but at the end of the day, people need to be able to react for themselves."

Messina says his biggest concern is seeing lots just like these all around town overgrown with brush and grass and unmanaged by property owners.

"The responsibility and the expectation that of the town is that you will still maintain that property when it comes to fire safety and we’re going to enforce that whether you live in Chico, Nebraska, Southern California," he said.

Messina says they’re being more aggressive inspecting properties.

"We’re trying to identify the most at-risk portions of the town and focus on those inspections and serve them notices on whether they did a good job or whether you need to do some additional work around your house," Messina said.

Messina says since the Camp Fire he’s seeing a heightened sense of awareness in the community.

"The ones remaining in Paradise and the ones that want to move back are doing exactly what we want them to make Paradise fire safe," he said.

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Dense fog has developed across parts of northern California Monday morning and the potential for light showers will return today. We'll dry out and warm up on Tuesday, but more cool and wet weather is expected mid week. A more substantial wet system is currently projected to move into our region this weekend.
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