A special Camp Fire version of “Hits and misses.”

Hit: The devastation from the fast-moving fire that leveled Paradise is unprecedented and heartbreaking.

There’s not much good to come out of it, other than the good exhibited by people. There are so many stories of people helping family members, neighbors and strangers to escape the firestorm.

Nurses, ambulance crews, hospital workers, firefighters, deputies and others bravely worked to help others while trees were blazing and sometimes falling around them, often ignoring their own injuries. People showed up unsolicited at evacuation centers with items like bottled water, blankets and socks. Government agencies and nonprofits hurriedly set up evacuation centers and found places for trailers, motorhomes and animals. Groups like the North Valley Animal Disaster Group, Red Cross, North Valley Community Foundation and many others sprang into action, doing what they do best.

People offered homes to evacuees. Churches and the Elks Lodge opened up makeshift evacuation shelters. Still it wasn’t enough. But it was something.

In difficult times, we often remember that our similarities outweigh our differences. We thank everybody for pitching in.

Miss: We’re accustomed to wildfires in these parts. We’re not accustomed to wildfires in November.

It’s hard to believe that the worst wildfire in state history, in terms of number of structures burned, ignited on a day when the overnight temperatures nearly got into the 30s. Or that the town was ablaze two days before the ice skating rink was scheduled to open. Or that authorities told people to evacuate through Inskip on a road that often is impassable because of snow or ice by the end of this month.

But there’s nothing normal about fire behavior anymore. Welcome to the new normal — a fire season that never ends.

There’s one more oddity we couldn’t help but notice. Two days after town residents overwhelmingly voted to extend a one-cent sales tax for public safety, most of the town burned down.

Hit: We feel for the town, the Sheriff’s Office and emergency responders because it will seem to many observers that the evacuation of Paradise didn’t go well. After all, people died.

The fire behavior was extreme, however. The Camp Fire traveled 12 miles in five hours, then another 12 miles in the next five hours.

After the Humboldt Fire in 2008, hard lessons were learned and governments worked together on ridge evacuation plans. They worked as well as could be expected given the circumstances.

Four lanes of the Skyway were open to downhill traffic. All lanes of Pentz and Clark roads were also open to downhill traffic. People on the upper ridge were sent to Butte Meadows. The problem was just too many people trying to leave in too short a time.

As Paradise rebuilds, the town, county and state governments need to work together to ensure that either Pentz or Clark, or both, become four-lane routes out of town.

Miss: With the loss of thousands of homes, hundreds of businesses, and perhaps dozens of human lives before we’re done, it may seem odd to hurt for the loss of one old bridge.

The Honey Run Covered Bridge had stood across Butte Creek for 122 years, then in an instant Thursday, it was gone.

It’s one of the most recognizable structures in our area, as beloved as Bidwell Mansion, the focus of so many photographs and paintings. Now those pictures and paintings are all anyone has.

The Covered Bridge has been saved from canyon wildfires before. As noted above, the Camp Fire was moving so fast there was no way to save the bridge, which after months without rain, was essentially a mass of firewood suspended over a creek.

While we will mourn those who died and ache for those who lost everything, the loss of that old bridge also is going to hurt for a long time.

“Hits and misses” appears each Saturday. Items are compiled by the editorial board.



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