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In-Depth Interview: New Book Recounts the Deadly Wildfire that Leveled Paradise, California

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Alastair Gee and Dani Anguiano are co-authors of Fire in Paradise: An American Tragedy, a riveting account of the devastating 2018 Camp fire.Our guests are both reporters for the London-based Guardian newspaper, and Anguiano previously reported for the Chico Enterprise-Record, where she covered Butte County, including Paradise, for 3 years before joining The Guardian.

We open with a discussion of the elements that enabled the deadly wildfire: climate change, drought, onshore Diablo winds, a huge number of dead trees, and our “rogue utility”, Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E).  Officials in Paradise knew of the risk of wildfires, and had made evacuation plans for such an event, but not of the speed and magnitude of the Camp fire, which started on the morning of November 8, 2018 and displaced most of the town’s 27,000 residents.

We discuss the gross negligence of PG&E, which allowed towers and high tension lines that were almost 100 years old to remain in service.  We talk about the company’s history, going back to the bungled construction of the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant in the 1980’s, the PG&E-written deregulation legislation in 1999 that led to bankruptcy and power cutoffs in the early 2000’s, and the deadly gas explosion that killed 8 residents and destroyed a neighborhood in San Bruno in 2010.

Gee and Anguiano share stories of victims, survivors, and the heroic firefighters and others who fought in vain to save the town. And Gee explains that the Camp fire was not caused by a campfire.