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New evacuation warnings one year after the Camp Fire

Action News Now reporter Stephanie Lin asked county and town leaders what they are doing to make sure history does not repeat itself.

Posted: Nov 8, 2019 4:00 AM
Updated: Nov 8, 2019 4:27 PM

PARADISE, Calif. - After the Camp Fire, phone alerts are now more frequent than ever, a new normal for a community that still wonders why they were not warned, the day of the Camp Fire.

"[The fire] was so fast and so aggressive," remembers Brandi Harner. She is a Camp Fire survivor. 

"I screamed for my son to come outside. Nobody got a phone call, nobody got anything."

Despite signing up for emergency alerts on her cell phone and landline, Harner says she got no notice to evacuate. The only message came from PG&E, sent two days prior to November 8th, warning of a possible power outage.

"If that fire had started two hours earlier…most people would have…I would have died," says Harner.

"The way the evac notices went out, is not acceptable," said Paradise town councilman Mike Zucollilo. He's working to understand why the code red system failed that day.

"One of the fundamental notices of our evacuation is, you don't leave until you're told to. In this case, you have people waiting on notices that never came through."

The Butte County Sheriff's office says 15,000 of the 30,000 code red alerts were not received.

"What happens when the power goes down? When the cell towers go down? When the fiber to the town burns up?" said Zucollilo.

Town leaders are now considering ways to revamp their emergency notification system, which could include a standalone siren. It could sound like the new hi-lo siren introduced by the Butte County Sheriff's Office earlier this year. Deputies used it to run evacuations during the Swedes Fire. 

"What the Camp Fire showed us was that there are situations that can develop so rapidly, they can outpace our resources," said Sheriff Honea. 

The Sheriff acknowledged there is no catch-all solution to emergency notifications and asks people to have their evacuation plans in place.

"You cannot rely on one source for your information," he said. 

Sheriff Honea's office is now developing a phone line for evacuation information, and working with the Butte County Office of Emergency Services on ways to alert people even if they have no cell service. He's also working with Cal OES to create standardized terms for emergency situations, in different languages, from Spanish to Hmong.

Back to Brandi, she says she now gets emergency alerts more often than she expects. But she appreciates them. And despite all that's happened, she's now looking at options to rebuild in Paradise, one year, after the Camp Fire.

"I raised my son there. It's home. It's where my home is," she said. 

Paradise town leaders tell Action News Now revamping the evacuation warning system is a top priority, but the next order of business is clearing Paradise of all the dead trees, so people can safely rebuild. 

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 284012

Reported Deaths: 6573
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Los Angeles1207643582
Riverside21101506
Orange18892369
San Diego17578399
San Bernardino15932272
Imperial7343121
Alameda6925140
Fresno692481
San Joaquin560058
Kern554384
Santa Clara5478165
Tulare5175139
Sacramento456676
Contra Costa409286
San Francisco402050
Ventura385850
Santa Barbara374230
San Mateo3692111
Marin298926
Stanislaus288945
Kings275537
Monterey223917
Solano182627
Merced162311
Sonoma146612
Placer93811
San Luis Obispo8082
Yolo72326
Madera7137
Santa Cruz5013
Napa4484
San Benito2922
Butte2753
Sutter2753
Lassen2670
El Dorado2640
Shasta1635
Humboldt1544
Nevada1511
Glenn1460
Yuba1392
Lake981
Tehama941
Mendocino920
Colusa860
Calaveras610
Del Norte581
Tuolumne570
Mono481
Amador340
Inyo341
Siskiyou320
Mariposa311
Plumas130
Alpine20
Trinity20
Sierra10
Unassigned00
Chico
Clear
68° wxIcon
Hi: 98° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 68°
Oroville
Clear
66° wxIcon
Hi: 98° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 66°
Paradise
Clear
68° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 68°
Chester
Clear
46° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 46°
Red Bluff
Clear
72° wxIcon
Hi: 100° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 72°
Willows
Clear
68° wxIcon
Hi: 101° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 68°
More heat and sunshine for our area today, and thankfully weaker wind for our dry region. The highs will get hotter, but the wind will also get stronger late in the forecast.
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