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THE FLAG: the story of an American Flag that survived the fire to become a symbol of hope

One year after the fire we look back and attempt to find the story behind the image of the flag.

Posted: Nov 8, 2019 9:42 AM
Updated: Nov 8, 2019 4:11 PM

BUTTE COUNTY, Calif. - This is the story of one flag that became a symbol of hope when it looked like all was lost the day after the Camp Fire.

I was on a street like many others in the town of Paradise littered with downed powerlines.

I ducked under a power line and looked up and there it was, a flag waving in the wind that looked like it had been put yesterday.

Shortly after I saw it, I snapped the now-viral picture and quickly hundreds of thousands begin to like and share it.

I never knew the story behind that flag, or whose home it was in front of, so I decided to find out.

The only way I knew where the picture was taken was through the GPS on my phone so armed with only that I started driving to Paradise.

When I came to the street that I had taken the flag picture I found nothing left.

The lots had been cleared and the wreckage was gone, only the sound of the wind remained.

Discouraged I got back into my car and drove to regroup. Shortly after though I was flagged down by someone driving past me.

That person turned out to be Jamie Johnston who wanted to ask me about our coverage of the town.

Johnston and I begin talking and come to find out she knew exactly who I was looking for.

“You have been looking for my neighbor on my street but you didn’t know who he was and it’s the guy that had the standing flag right after the fire and that picture went viral all over the place,” Johnston said. “But you didn’t know who it was.”

This was it, the lead I was looking for.

So she was gracious enough to take me back to the street and on the way call Gerry the owner of the flag, who once we got there was excited to share his story.

“It was on your newscast for a month or more… when the lady was reading the news… and my wife said it’s our flag! And I said no it's not and she said yes it is! And I looked and I said Jehovah…”

Gerry and Joice Mclean like thousands of others were residents of the town of Paradise when the Camp Fire hit but it was their flag that became a symbol of the fire.

The couple was in awe of how far the flag picture went, even if they helped it out themselves “that picture made it all the way to nova scotia,” Gerry noted. “Canada I am a Canadian flag and that flag I sent a picture to my brothers down there and it made it down there and I don’t know where else it made it but it was around.”

While the couple’s home was destroyed they have just received a new one and are well on their way to settling into their home in Paradise.

And yes they did, of course, keep the flag, Gerry said, “it’s distinguishable like it didn’t even burn the edges but it’s smoke damaged and you could tell it’s been beaten up.”

Every day we pass American flags waving a symbol of the United States while this flag may now stand for something more for Gerry it will always be a reminder of the love of his country.

“Well, I put it up basically because I think everyone should have one,” Gerry said. “It’s saying that this is our country this is our home why not have it.”

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 3213222

Reported Deaths: 37543
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles107967215314
San Bernardino2660281678
Riverside2643632857
Orange2377082704
San Diego2286322375
Santa Clara985831264
Kern90564591
Fresno858081067
Sacramento841101185
Alameda70823896
Ventura66402525
San Joaquin59665835
Contra Costa55245489
Stanislaus49065796
Tulare43574542
Monterey37527259
San Mateo34294340
San Francisco30559293
Santa Barbara27149267
Solano27041115
Imperial25707510
Merced25575331
Sonoma25141251
Kings20138161
Placer17839188
San Luis Obispo16957158
Madera14000151
Santa Cruz13009135
Marin12024165
Yolo11210138
Shasta10054129
Butte9820136
El Dorado818462
Sutter806983
Napa800548
Lassen526916
San Benito522351
Yuba517630
Tehama446846
Tuolumne347740
Nevada335574
Mendocino329336
Amador306733
Lake272432
Humboldt262427
Glenn202622
Colusa18719
Calaveras170423
Siskiyou149913
Mono11454
Inyo105129
Del Norte8742
Plumas6135
Modoc3903
Mariposa3555
Trinity3065
Sierra950
Alpine730
Unassigned00
Chico
Cloudy
43° wxIcon
Hi: 46° Lo: 29°
Feels Like: 34°
Oroville
Cloudy
48° wxIcon
Hi: 46° Lo: 35°
Feels Like: 40°
Chico
Cloudy
43° wxIcon
Hi: 39° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 34°
Red Bluff
Cloudy
41° wxIcon
Hi: 25° Lo: 1°
Feels Like: 30°
Red Bluff
Cloudy
41° wxIcon
Hi: 41° Lo: 25°
Feels Like: 30°
Chico
Cloudy
43° wxIcon
Hi: 46° Lo: 27°
Feels Like: 34°
A Pacific storm is now moving into northern California. The clouds have arrived, the wind is getting stronger, and we can expect areas of rain and snow tonight, and it will be heavy at times. Snow will fall down to the valley floor through Wednesday morning.
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