Mass shooting and mass burnings: California gets rocked

“Mass shootings and mass burnings,” said Stephen Pyne, a wildfire expert at Arizona State University. “Welcome to the new America.”

Two major wildfires are ravaging two sides of California. One couple decides not to wait for death as they flee Paradise on foot.

the Woolsey fire

The Woolsey fire in southern California may have killed two people, destroyed hundreds of homes, and forced more than 300,000 to evacuate–including from the town of Thousand Oaks, that is still mourning last week’s mass shooting at a local bar.

the Camp fire

The Camp fire, north of San Francisco, has charred over 105,000 acres and leveled 7,000 homes and buildings. It is the most destructive and deadly wildfire in state history.

It started at 6:30 a.m, last Thursday in a canyon with steep slopes. By 10 a.m., it covered 5,000 acres. It continued for 11 miles in its first 11 hours, destroying 80 acres per minute.

The fire is about 25 percent contained.

escape from Paradise

The Camp fire leveled the small town of Paradise, a quiet retirement community north and west of San Francisco. Residents desperately tried to flee the massive fire, with their only escape a traffic-clogged and largely un-passable Skyway.

Even though the mayor of Paradise had developed a detailed plan for escape in case of a wildfire, on Thursday the flames came too quickly. The entire town needed to evacuate immediately, and, with one road to do it, it just didn’t work.  The number of elderly residents and the steep terrain leading up to the town complicated the situation.

Survivors describe the horror of being in a car, with fire on both sides of the road, and locked in bumper-to-bumper traffic. They describe the heat pulsing through windows, the melting of cars around them and the eery sight of abandoned vehicles. Some residents were running alongside the line of traffic, down the shoulder, trying to make it off the mountain on foot.

one couple decided not to simply wait for death

Richard and Zetta Gore were in their car, only a few blocks from their home, stuck in traffic and not moving.

“We were sitting ducks to be burned in our vehicles and if I was going to die in a forest fire,” Richard Gore said, “I would rather die with my wife, trying to get away, than sitting in a vehicle dying.”

After half an hour of watching the fire get closer, they abandoned the car.

They hurried to an overlook at Billes Park.  When the flames came within 400 feet, they called their 32-year-old son to say goodbye.

“We’re going to make a run for it on foot,” Gore said to his son. “This could be the last time we ever talk to you.” Richard and Zetta have been married 39 years.

Together, they slid down the deep ravine with water bottles and blankets they could soak if the fire got too close.

They made it to the bottom of the canyon, waded through the creek, then hiked for five miles before hitching a ride to safety.

Burned bodies have been recovered from cars throughout Paradise.

Residents of Paradise, California had fled their homes and were counting their dead as the president tweeted about the wildfires, and who was to blame, and how much it would cost the government, and how he would cut off funding if something didn’t change. Geek out on his tweet and the response from the president of the firefighters’ union.

Does President Trump have a point? Should California work on its forest management plan? Let’s take a look.

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