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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: 914888

Reported Deaths: 17460
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Los Angeles3020777027
Riverside669931303
San Bernardino633671073
Orange589801454
San Diego55210877
Kern33928416
Fresno30969439
Sacramento25601491
Santa Clara24425392
Alameda23471462
San Joaquin21729489
Contra Costa18763242
Stanislaus17714398
Tulare17590288
Ventura14330165
Imperial12967336
San Francisco12189140
Monterey1141990
San Mateo11198159
Santa Barbara9827122
Merced9531155
Sonoma9494136
Kings826483
Solano744576
Marin7096129
Madera503774
Placer420757
San Luis Obispo417432
Yolo321959
Butte309552
Santa Cruz280825
Napa196616
Shasta195431
Sutter186512
San Benito144215
El Dorado13514
Yuba132310
Mendocino113621
Tehama8928
Lassen7661
Lake69816
Glenn6713
Nevada6238
Humboldt56810
Colusa5516
Calaveras34218
Amador33116
Tuolumne2754
Inyo23115
Siskiyou2050
Del Norte1801
Mono1802
Mariposa792
Plumas700
Modoc360
Trinity270
Sierra60
Alpine30
Unassigned00
Chico
Clear
54° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 44°
Feels Like: 54°
Oroville
Clear
50° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 50°
Paradise
Clear
54° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 50°
Feels Like: 54°
Chester
Clear
18° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 18°
Red Bluff
Clear
44° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 42°
Willows
Clear
54° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 43°
Feels Like: 54°
Winds have calmed down but we remain dry. Temperatures will be in the upper-70s to low-80s for the rest of the week. This quiet weather is good for fire danger but unfortunate since no rain is in the forecast.
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