Resident fleeing Camp Fire: ‘The whole town is on fire’
Devastated by the Camp Fire, which had burned more than 70,000 acres as of Friday with 5 percent containment reported by Cal Fire, the town of Paradise in Northern California has by many accounts been mostly destroyed.
An estimated 2,000 structures have been leveled, Cal Fire said Friday morning, many of them homes. With five fatalities confirmed Friday by the Butte County Sheriff’s Office, the Camp Fire is already one of the 20 deadliest fires on record in California history.
All five victims perished on a single street in Paradise, trapped in vehicles as they tried to escape the blaze, officials said.
Before this week’s tragic events, the Butte County community of Paradise, six miles east of Chico city limits, was a fairly quiet place. It had just under 27,000 residents as of the 2010 census.
Here are five things to know about Paradise.
It suffered another ‘Camp Fire’ a decade ago
The town of Paradise was burned in 2008 by a pair of fires named the Humboldt Fire and Camp Fire, according to archived Cal Fire records.
The 2008 Camp Fire destroyed approximately 50 homes.
Both the 2008 and 2018 Camp fires were named after their originating locations, at Camp Creek Road near Jarbo Gap.
Paradise’s name is a source of some mystery
An alternate spelling (Paradice) found on some early maps gave way to the theory that Paradise wasn’t named for its heavenly qualities, but instead the similar-sounding phrase, “pair of dice.”
In 2013, fact-checking and urban myth-busting website Snopes.com debunked this origin story, which in particular claimed that Paradise in California was named after the “Pair O’ Dice Saloon,” an 1800s establishment. There’s no evidence documenting the existence of such a place.
Former Oroville Mayor Gene Sylva told Snopes the town was instead named by his great-great-grandfather, William Pierce Leonard, who he says exclaimed, “Boys, this is paradise,” upon arriving there on horseback in 1864. But Snopes couldn’t dig up any evidence of this claim either.
One-quarter of its residents are seniors
An U.S. Census Bureau info webpage shows that an estimated 25 percent of Paradise’s 27,000 residents are age 65 or older.
The town was home to a number of senior living facilities and mobile home parks housing many of these seniors, some of which were destroyed Thursday in the fire.
One elderly care home, Atria Senior Living’s Paradise location, evacuated all 77 of its residents safely Thursday morning, relocating them temporarily to a Marriott in Rancho Cordova.
There’s not much water
Though Paradise is just north of Lake Oroville, a satellite map of the town shows very little in the way of creeks, lakes, rivers or other bodies of water.
The 18-square-mile town is 99 percent land, Census Bureau data shows.
Much of the water used by fire crews to fight the ongoing Camp Fire has come from the Concow Reservoir east of the Feather River Hospital, according to scanner traffic obtained via Broadcastify.com.
It was featured in a cinema classic
Scenes from the 1939 epic “Gone With the Wind” were filmed in parts of Paradise and nearby Chico, according to IMDb.com.
“Gone With the Wind,” a Best Picture winner, remains the highest-grossing film of all time when accounting for inflation.