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I don't know if you've ever been to or through Paradise, but its very similar to many foothill communities in the north and south Sierras, in the sense that the town was effectively built into the surrounding forests. The forest in that area is primarily Ponderosa, and pretty decent sized ones as well. In this sense, and I can speak from authority as I've spent far more time in Paradise than I would have preferred (reasons below), pretty much the entire town had negative defensible space. Most of the houses in Paradise are (were) fully surrounded by 50-120 foot pondos and under a closed canopy.

Likewise, most of the new construction was built on the ridge (Skyway) between Paradise and Chico, which is primarily California live oak and grassland.

A huge mitigating factor in all of this however, is the level of poverty in and around the (former?) town of Paradise.

Not sure how well this has been represented in the media, but Paradise as a community is poor as shit. There are just about -shit_all- jobs (outside the hospital) in that area that don't involve selling cigarettes and lotto tickets. Paradise, Concow, Magalia, pretty much some of the poorest areas of California I know of. Many of the families in that area lived on properties that had been built over several generations, handed down from gold-rush era mining claims. These aren't people who keep insurance on anything. Nor are they the kind of people who concern themselves with maintaining a defensible space around their homes.

I stayed in Paradise for a handful of days around a month ago. Nice people and town, and I'm really saddened to see what's happened to them.

As the article points out, there are some interesting areas where there are green or just lightly singed trees surrounding homes that are totally gone. Certainly there are also a lot of trees that clearly went up like torches. There was also a place where the fire came halfway up the front yard and then just ... stopped. If I remember right, that yard was mostly bare dirt though with just a light layer of pine needles, which don't burn well. Every place around it was completely gone, and I mean completely. They had a neighbor's house all of about twenty feet from their house. Neighbor's house is just dust, the wall on this house wasn't even darkened.

The new construction I was talking about were individual buildings or, in one case, a small series of retail spaces. Everything surrounding them was just ash.

So there may be some merit to what the article's saying. It kind of explains some of the oddities I've seen. I didn't get to survey the area in detail before it was destroyed though.

I've been out there one full day so far on the ground in a SAR team, and I'm scheduled to be out there again Sunday through Wednesday in overhead. I wish I could be out there more but my day job is being a bit difficult right now.

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