Forced Out by Deadly Fires, Then Trapped in Traffic

The infernos raging at both ends of California have created a double nightmare for residents. Many who fled fires found themselves stuck on traffic-clogged roads. Some died in their cars.


Comments: 149

  1. Denial of climate change has devastating consequences. Trump’s threats to withhold federal aid to California is unconscionable

  2. @Mitchell California is one of the most wealthiest states in the country, not sure you should be blaming this on Trump. California official need to take back their sanctuary city budgets to cover the fires. Good day.

  3. @Concerned EU Resident California taxpayers send more money to the federal government than they get back. Where do you think the U.S. Treasury gets its money?

  4. @Mitchell Breaking news...Trump has no conscience nor compassion nor heart nor brain nor backbone. Who knew? The 63 million Americans including 58% of the white voting majority knew.

  5. Perhaps California could spend more on fire-prevention and less on burnishing its image with the activist crowd.

  6. cruel

  7. @gdf What is "cruel" about saving lives?

  8. Trump’s threat to withhold aid is unconscionable

  9. @Mitchell The whole world is fully aware that Trump has no conscience.

  10. Beyond comprehension that president Trump blamed "California's gross forest mismanagement" for the most devastating wildfires ever seen in that state. We await the death toll from the ravaging fires on the west coast. Tragic example of nature's and our planet's wrath. This President doesn't know zilch about forest management, and has mismanaged our country into an abhorrent world-class disgrace. The Republicans and their leader are climate-warming deniers.who call climate change is a hoax. Fire, flood, earthquakes can't be contained. Paradise lost. By the time the G.O.P. realizes how wrong-headed they are, mankind will be more in peril than it is today.

  11. @Nan Socolow Seriously? Why do you think Benjamin Netanyahu and Vladimir Putin selected him to be our President ?

  12. Can we build fire shelters similar to tornado ones? Underground or fireproof structures with an air supply should not be that complicated. The fires move on when they're out of fuel, the structures wouldn't have to sustain hours of fire. It's most certainly a band-aid, but it could save lives between now and when we drastically change the entire landscape of California and relocate its few million people.

  13. @Susan The point about wildfires moving quickly is a very good one. In fact in the forest, the flaming portion of a fire often passes within 2-3 minutes (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z0rQ8A8Cf5M as an example). Sheltering in place in a specially designed room would undoubtedly be very frightening but may be one way to avoid deaths and is worth evaluating in highly fire prone regions.

  14. And in the middle of this disaster, the President is threatening to withhold Federal aid and playing politics....all while acting un-Presidential this weekend in France.

  15. @Joseph Goetz. Our POTUS is incapable of either acting or actually being presidential.

  16. @Joseph Goetz Another embarrassing disastrous Trump trip abroad. But Trump did get a "thumbs up" from Vlad!!

  17. I'm going to say it - because it needs to be said. Where were the Governor of California, the Senators, and Local Officials -> in trying to prevent, warn, and rescue folks!!! They were too busy with their sanctuary cities agenda, and focusing on a social justice agenda -> instead of focusing on the basics -> public safety. On the other hand, perhaps those Government Officials thought that people with the money and such 'privilege' as to afford those mansions and large estates, should take care of themselves. Either way the State of California is responsible, and in this instance President Trump is vindicated. Of course he will release federal funds to support, but he should only after these delinquent California officials beg for his help. Good day.

  18. @Concerned EU Resident The fires started on and mostly burned through *federal* forest lands, not State of California lands. Local officials do educate citizens about best fire prevention management and emergency drills, but there isn't much they can do when a fire grows faster than a football field per second. Trump is using this as a political stunt to argue for clearcut logging because it will make a lot of money for his friends in those industries. Wildland fire management is complicated. Productive long-term management will need to have plans based on recommendations from emergency management specialists, fire fighters, ecologists, and forestry specialists. The Camp Fire burned through two areas that were clearcut logged 10 years ago. Why? They were filled with highly-flamible brush. Trump's ham-fisted tweets were in no way "vindicated" by what has happened this past week in California.

  19. @Concerned EU Resident And how do you have this information that the California officials did nothing to warn and prepare residents, when it's explicitly mentioned in the story. There are a number of ways to alert people, from the emergency broadcast system to the cops walking door to door to warn people to leave (which was referenced in the text). Also note: there is an evacuation route, again mentioned explicitly in the story. Do you think there would be one if the government had ignored planning? Also, for better or worse, a good number of people decide to "ride out" impending disasters. The authorities have no recourse to force people out so they stay and get killed. I call this the "Harry Truman" effect, after the gentleman who refused to evacuate before Mount Saint Helens erupted, and who now rests approx 150 feet below rock debris and hardened lava flow. Most people can walk and rub their stomachs simultaneously. One would hope that a state is able to work on multiple policies at the same time! Don't believe you've proven your case at all (though opinion is always free). But good day to you, as well.

  20. @Concerned EU Resident And how do you have this information that the California officials did nothing to warn and prepare residents, when it's explicitly mentioned in the story. There are a number of ways to alert people, from the emergency broadcast system to the cops walking door to door to warn people to leave (which was referenced in the text). Also note: there is an evacuation route, again mentioned explicitly in the story. Do you think there would be one if the government had ignored planning? Also, for better or worse, a good number of people decide to "ride out" impending disasters. The authorities have no recourse to force people out so they stay and get killed. I call this the "Harry Truman" effect, after the gentleman who refused to evacuate before Mount Saint Helens erupted, and who now rests approx 150 feet below rock debris and hardened lava flow. Most people can walk and rub their stomachs simultaneously. One would hope that a state is able to work on multiple policies at the same time! And lastly - Trump had a lot of criticism but not a whole lot of funding for Puerto Rico. I'm not holding my breath for much assistance coming from that quarter. But my primary point: it's pathetic when EVERYTHING becomes politicized, even down to people losing their lives in natural disasters. I haven't even touched on several other factors. But I don't believe you've proven your case at all (though opinion is always free). But good day to you, as well.

  21. Global Heating is changing climate patterns around the world. Even "it never rains in sunny California" is being affected. Perhaps state and federal agencies will reclaim these disaster zones and turn them into parks and refuges. They certainly won't be fit for human habitation. See: The fires will return.

  22. Cars offer a false sense of security and speed. That is why they are so dangerous to rely on in natural disasters. This past spring I took a university class on the Great East Japanese Earthquake of 2011. During the field trip to Tohoku we spoke with many survivors, emergency responders, and city officials. A message they told us to bring back to the United States is that whatever you do, don't get into a car. The roads of East Japan were immediately backed up with people stuck in traffic or were impassible due to mud and debris. Then when the tsunami hit it washed the cars away and the people suck in those cars drowned. Your best bet for traveling in the aftermath of a major natural disaster is by bike or on foot, but no matter how many times those of us trained in emergency response tell people that, everyone runs to their cars during both drills and actual disasters.

  23. It's the same with cold weather. When that warm toasty vehicle gets stuck in the snow and runs out of gas you're in a metal can with no heat and no insulation.

  24. @CH Shannon Very good observation. When I think of a car, I think of it as being a solid, metal object. Then I see these pictures of burned out cars.

  25. @CH Shannon If everyone else is walking, I'll take my truck! Of course, they won't be. All it takes is for one car in front to break down and then everyone behind is stuck...but don't realize they are fully stuck. If a car breaks down...push it off the road (if possible). People don't want to do that either.

  26. Has Trump actually threatened to withhold federal aid to Californis? Has he lost his mind? His Federal troops lounging at the Mexican border need to be deployed helping California survive this threat. Trump is vindictive to the point of insanity to have made that statement, if this is true. Unbelievable.

  27. @joyce Paradise voted 58% for Trump. Another example of people acting in opposition to their own interests.

  28. @joyce What would the Border Patrol and active duty do to help during the fire? You need firemen, no?

  29. @joyce Criticising Donald Trump is a lost cause. He is mentally ill and Blame Mitch McConnell. He is the ONLY person in our government who has the power (and is constitutionally bound) to call Trump out for his outrageous comments and reckless behavior. Yet Mitch McConnell says and does absolutely NOTHING... which only emboldens DJT to act out with even more egregious actions and statements.

  30. We should remember this next time they want to build nuclear power plants near NYC. They'll tell us, "Oh, don't worry. We have an expert designed "evacuation plan". Yeah. Right.

  31. @XY Every once in awhile, while driving around my state, I see signs reading "Evacuation Route." And I think: "What for? And where to?"

  32. @Bob Rossi Agreed! The roads around Boston labelled "Evacuation Route" are always overcrowded on a regular day. Can you imagine if they truly needed to be used for a mass evacuation? In the California hillsides, the roads are narrow and curvy and not made for any sort of evacuation.

  33. @XY . Remember the Shoreham nuclear power plant? It was abandoned decades ago, and the primary argument was that it would be impossible to evacuate the area. Indeed, it was hard to move through that area during an ordinary workday rush hour.

  34. 98% of the land burning is Federal. Who’s been cutting funds?

  35. California burning. The videos are harrowing and the deaths in the inferno are so sad. Can the cities be equipped with giant sprinklers and underground shelters? Can the houses be both fire and earthquake resistant? Should people have flame resistant clothing with them in case of such disasters?

  36. @vs This is a case of complete and utter denial. California has been in drought for decades. Those who thought an area with no water could support a huge population were lying to themselves, just as those in Las Vegas, Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico are lying to themselves. Worse, the voters in these states elect climate deniers who are making the absurd situation even worse. Until this country starts operating in the fact-based world, and not religious / political realm, there is really no hope for this country. Stick a fork in the US. We are ignorant and we are done.

  37. @vs Crowd Source! With 7.7 BILLION people in this world, there must be a million workable ideas out there to protect or mitigate the loss of lives and property from the scourge of wild fires. Add a big discount by Insurance companies for those who purchase the products from these ideas. Hey, it's better than "thoughts and prayers". Next Crowd Source: Stopping Mass Shootings in America.

  38. @DickeyFuller - Agreed! Even w/out the drought, the western US is a fire-based ecology. It will burn, it has to burn, it's supposed to burn. Meanwhile, population is exploding here in The Land of No Water as local governments willy-nilly approve more poorly planned fire/landslide-prone real estate developments in order to grow the tax base in order to support more growth that doesn't pay for itself.

  39. Every card carrying fascist loves a holocaust. Of course, withholding federal funds as punishment for poor forest management fits Trumps warped mind like brush fires fit forest management. Blaming the victim is what the master projectionist will do until the end of this bad movie.

  40. I lived in California for 6.5 years. As a legal immigrant (brown skin, I guess that's important these days), I was initially appreciative of the progressive DNA. But then gradually I started to see lack of common sense and the idiocy in general. For example, public transport, or lack thereof. For example, prop 13. For example, sancturay cities ,aka, I-cannot-take- care-of-my-own-but-let-me-bring-in more. For example, technology is the solution to everything. For example, Californians know what's best for rest of USA. Enough said. I moved out.

  41. @Observer If technology were the solution to everything we'd all be well off, have advanced STEM degrees.. and humanity would be living in the 27th century by now.

  42. @Observer I definitely have tremendous issues with local law enforcement NOT cooperating with ICE to detain convicted illegal immigrants so they may be deported rather releasing them back into the community so they can commit more crimes. I'd like someone to explain the rationale behind this insane policy.

  43. But doesn’t all the evidence show that immigrants are not the ones committing the crimes? Can we deport angry white males with MAGA hats and gun arsenals?

  44. This is all Donald Trump's fault. His denial of climate change and his antipathy towards California delivering Hillary Clinton a 4 million vote majority has Trump wishing holy Hell upon Calfornians. What was Trump supposed to do? End his sulking scorpion, skunk and spider charm assault in the rain of Paris and rush to console California? First Mannequin and Third Lady Melania needed to cycle through her wardrobe first. Moreover,Trump did not want to get his wig wet in France nor have it catch on fire in California.

  45. @Blackmamba World climate patterns were changing long before DJT came to visit earth. With a planetary human population of 1 Billion by the year 1820, the die was cast. California's carbon (burning) footprint is exacerbating their own environmental problems.

  46. @Blackmamba I despise Trump but, denial of climate change didn't begin with, nor is it exclusive to, him.

  47. @Lifelong New Yorker Indeed. But the birds survived and thrived before and beyond the last mass climate change event of 65 million years ago. Whether extraterrestrial aka comet, asteroid or terrestrial aka volcanic aka continental drift it was much worse than now.

  48. In the coastal areas affected by hurricanes and flooding, residents need to think twice about rebuilding. Could the same be said for certain parts of California? I love to visit California, but I'm always struck by how fragile and precarious those multi-million dollar homes look perched in the hills. When the much needed rains come, it will lead to the inevitable mudslides.

  49. @msd: Well said, and true. People need to take history into account before building in fire prone areas, or on the shore.

  50. A more robust warning system is needed. I have a weather radio in my bedroom that makes a terrible racket, but only when a warning is issued for my county. People also need to be trained to evacuate before a deputy sheriff knocks on their door or a mandatory order is issued, especially if they live in a wooded area with only one way out. Keeping documents in a bug out bag would help . It is sad, but it usually takes disasters to make us humans learn.

  51. Sadly, except when it comes to gun control.

  52. And California is spending untold billions on a train that no one will use. How about spending that money on something they can use like more fire fighting equipment? It’s a disgrace what the Leftist/Democrats have done to that state.

  53. California’s “leftist” economy has grown to the 5th largest in the world. They can afford both public transportation projects and fire abatement. They also send more tax dollars to the federal government than any other state. Rather than criticize it, we should be thankful that California remains in the union. They prop up the poorer, right-leaning states.

  54. High speed rail has nothing to do with this disaster, and more firefighting equipment would not have changed the outcome. What would help California is a national effort to fight climate change, instead of the Trump Administration’s denial of it.

  55. I sense people in Malibu might go the "defense in place" route with longer fire abatement lines or even a fire-ready panic room. But for the people of Paradise? Unlikely. And they've lost everything. And does home insurance even cover fires? Paradise may be lost, or its remains will be reborn in the hands of wealthier people who can afford the risk.

  56. @CS yes. Homeowners insurance covers fire and your belongings

  57. @Lisa Malcolm In California you have to have fire insurance—separate from homeowners insurance.

  58. The California wildfires are classic news. I can ´t understand why The United States of America, the most technologically advanced and modern country in the world, is unable to prevent, every year, these kinds of natural or provoked disasters. Who can understand that? May be the problem is "imagination failure". Many yeras ago I read an Artcicle at The New York Times wrote by or in reference to, Timothy Williamson, an Oxford, Princeton and M.I.T. University Professor (Bristish Science Academy Member) about disasters prevention. Publish it again perhaps may help. Or may be the problem is Cassandra ´s Myth ignorance.

  59. @Arturo Castagnino Larriera By modern, do you mean: death penalty, lack of universal health care and perpetual wars ? More seriously, look at the increasing population rate of California, and a population enough rich to by house in the forest areas. What could you do ? It remember me a very interesting article of the Time about Florida and floods, in which a real estate agent explained than the costs of the floods have not even start to be significant in the front of the demand. Same for California, and of course the death are always horrible and sad, but the death tolls is not significant on a statistically way. The pressure for more housing will not stop, California is a very very attractive state. And fire will not stop too, unfortunately.

  60. @Arturo Castagnino Larriera - FWIW, the reason the entire western US is a tinderbox ready to burn is that we've tried to interrupt the natural fire cycle for many decades. That's been done primarily at the behest of the timber, cattle, railroad and real estate industries. Fire-based ecologies will burn, sooner or later. The longer we delay that burning, the more catastrophic the fires.

  61. I hope the 52 year old woman that had to run with her dog, Biscuit, is reading this story and comments. Please quit smoking! Lung cancer and emphysema are quite horrible ways to die as well.

  62. Here come the temperance police.

  63. @Lisa Malcolm Please don’t criticize her at this time! She has been through an unimaginable horror. I am glad she and her dog are safe. Back off

  64. @Lisa Malcolm I was more horrified that she was smoking when a tossed cigarette is very often the cause of a fire. Seems this is lost in her and there is no hope for someone so selfish and stupid.

  65. So tragic. Thank you for this article. It makes me better prepared for the possibility of this happening to our community.

  66. These fires are unbelievable nightmares. I simply cannot imagine having to try to "outrun" one of them and grieve for all those who lost their lives, loved ones and property. This is what happens when local governments give the keys to developers and corporations. They are about nothing but money. It's a tragedy that it takes something like these fires and horrendous flooding to wake us all up. WE THE PEOPLE - average people across America - must show up at city/town council meetins and protect OUR lives and communities. WE must make OUR hired/elected officials work for 99.9% of us - not the socially unconscious, morally/ethically bankrupt, insatiably greedy Robber Barons.

  67. @njglea This not a case involving developers. Paradise was established 170 years ago.

  68. It's about more than "Paradise", Kb. Think about the surrounding areas and activities taking place. All things work together for good or not-so-good for societies.

  69. @njglea Property owners sell their land, that's where development starts. There isn't much town councils can do about that, except limit or cap development, and only if there is legal reason to do so.

  70. Maybe a fleet of emergency evacuation vehicles, school busses or other high volume passenger transportation plus a ban on cars with less than full occupancy would help reduce the bottleneck.

  71. @Bello You are so right! Most of the traffic along the Pacific Coast highway, it’s actually a two lane road, in each direction, was south bound noontime Friday. Yet going northbound at that time was smooth sailing.

  72. @Bello, the problem is, since Reagan, America has ripped up the social contract. Used to be, we looked out for one another via collective action. Now it’s every man for himself and devil take the hindmost.

  73. @Bello I was going to propose the exact same thing, but as I began to think through how that process would actually work...first they have to inform residents via multiple communication modes... the residents need to all know in advance, for such emergencies, where to converge for the bus pickup in their neighborhood. What happens if the bus itself gets delayed?....or what if residents FEAR the bus may be delayed, and, with their own car sitting right there full of gas, they decide to leave right now instead of waiting for the bus? That is likely what would happen...people wouldn't want to wait for the bus. A ban on cars however, might fix that problem but then....who is going to be 'policing' the roads to ensure that no cars are allowed to pass through...only buses? And when push comes to shove, and cars can see flames through their rear-view mirrors, do you really think someone is going to tell those drivers that they need to turn back and somehow find one of those buses that have already begun their routes? I just think it would be too hard to coordinate a fleet of buses, with the behaviors of many individual residents, who are all in states of panic, trying to contact their other family members, grab certain items from their own homes, their pets etc. Though in theory, high-volume transport makes much more sense.

  74. I know this is probably naive... but let me get it out. I have always wondered if would be possible to diverted a percentage of the money that we spend on the military toward an 'air force' of firefighting helicopters? I admit that I have no experience with how effective they are in fighting fires and, conceivably, once a fire has established itself to the extent the Camp Fire has, it may be too late. But, what if we had 10,000 fire fighting aircraft standing by in fire prone communities ready to respond en masse at the first sign of smoke?

  75. That line of thought,is what may be required.Outside the box solutions.

  76. Helicopters cannot be used in high winds. Nor can they be used when there is inadequate visibility due to smoke. Nice try but...

  77. @Jaayemm that does sound fun, but there are a lot of barriers. Check out this article about how the US Forest Service will not allow the world's largest firefighting airplane to operate: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/worlds-largest-firefighting-aircraft-grounded-by-u-s-govt/ The delay is partially due to budget, so maybe your idea of diverting military funds would be enough to put these solutions in action (no need for all the helis).

  78. Cellphones and cars give a false sense of security. When disaster strikes phones are useless. Emergency plans need to independent of many variables.

  79. This tragedy has little to do with human-induced climate change. It has everything to do with environmental change, i.e. the population explosion in California, among which there are idiots who either accidentally or purposefully start fires. Fires have been destroying wood-framed buildings since the 1850s in California. Back then, the hoodlums in San Francisco would burn down large sections of the city on occasion. Today the amount and cost of the destruction from wild fires is commensurate with the population increase and lax building codes. Making buildings impervious to fire costs a lot of money in construction and landscaping costs. Let us assume that there has been a two degree warming in average temperatures in California in the last century. Does anyone seriously believe that it makes a difference during the dry season when it is 100 degrees rather than 98 to the outcome of a fire? Santa Ana winds are often the culprit in the destruction from these fires and they are a part of the natural environment. It seems that the left wants to blame everything bad that happens in the environment on climate change and everything bad that happens in the political/social arena on racism. These tragedies are teaching moments for California. Eventually, they will adapt their building and zoning codes to allow structures and communities to be defended from natural disasters such as this. They already impose a firefighting tax those who live unincorporated areas.

  80. @Dougal E There has been a 2 degree C rise in Philadelphia since 1948. A 1 degree C rise in Pittsburgh since 1890. The average air temp worldwide doesn't affect the local community at all. Source: NOAA.

  81. @Dougal E A prolonged drought and higher than normal temperatures following on the hottest summer on record. Every year hotter than previous one, with California fires getting worse each year! The vast majority of the world's leading scientist all agree, climate change is making the risk that much more pronounced. Why are people so resistant to believe this? The sooner we all recognise reality, the sooner we can make the changes needed. The IPCC interim report (http://www.ipcc.ch/report/sr15/) gives us limited time to clean up our act. Do some reading and look at the data and research reports with an open mind. I wish it wasn't true because its an extremely challenging problem.

  82. @Dougal E The Camp Fire major cause was the effects of a long drought that turned the forest into a tinderbox. 1 out of every 3 trees are dead and that created the fuel for an inferno. It will take decades to remove all of the dead trees.......... And BTW 2 degrees average temperature is much more then 98-100.

  83. It’s great that the NYT is telling us today, Monday, where the fire was on Saturday, but we need better informations sooner. We shouldn’t need to scout #CampFire to know where the fire is now, which way the winds are blowing, or what changes are likely. People with med issues need to be evacuated early. People with asthma and allergies are having a hard time breathing now, as far south as San Jose. Half the students at Berkeley left Saturday. My son left Friday night because of smoke. There are 238 people missing, nearly all lived in retirement communities near Paradise. That should be front page news. People are posting heat, wind and other fire maps every morning on Twitter. The media should do the same.

  84. @Laura Colban that's what the meteorologists do every day. This is a huge area that takes time to access

  85. Personally I do not look to the NYTimes to keep me abreast of weather or disaster issues in the deep south - I rely on local television/newspapers and national news (CNN, Weather Channel, etc). They NYTimes is a great paper, sometimes NY-centric (since that is after all it's first market) with some really good national and international news and great in-depth coverage. It can't be everything for everyone.

  86. @Laura ColbanI agree with your comment, but in particular, your LOCAL newspapers need to be on top of things, too. The NYT, after all, is very far from the situation.

  87. Kind of ironic, don't you think? Death by California traffic.

  88. @Richard You'll want the heavily armored limo to push the other vehicles off of the road. Assuming there is a shoulder to the roadway to begin with. See: Tinseltown transport.

  89. @Richard Nope--could have happened anywhere there are significant numbers of people. All you need for a tragedy is only one way out of danger. People who, once out of danger, don't get out of the way for the long trail of cars behind them don't help. It is helpful, before stopping or making phone calls, to get a sufficient distance away from any route that was clogged when one traveled through it.

  90. @Richard, thanks so much for your contribution.

  91. So the president puts troops along the border to protect us from mythical invading hordes but misses the real threats: global warming and the crazies with guns.

  92. @Finnbar Yes, of course it is Trump's fault. This is a NYT article about a natural disaster

  93. I am so saddened and grieve with the people who were caught in these terrible fires. I used to live in Paradise and the nearby community of Berry Creek, that has also been evacuated due to the fire, and is still in the hot zone. This area in Northern California is unbelievably beautiful and livable. However, having experienced the horrible smoke from these fires every year I lived there that rain down ash like hot snowflakes on everything, I decided to leave Northern California, and to settle in the Midwest, where I might be caught by a tornado and flooding. Folks, regardless of the disaster striking, you don't want to leave your home and possessions behind, nor your family or pets. Politics has no place right now in these discussions, but contributing to fire recovery efforts should be a priority so these folks can get back into a home somewhere, and hopefully back on their own property.

  94. What caused this fire? They seem to be a regular occurrence in USA and Australia. Pine trees and Eucalyptus trees shouldn't be near suburban homes as they burn too quickly. Maybe house building shouldn't be allowed in green belts that separate cities from rural areas. Where ever you have people and roads you have a higher chance of fires occurring. Maybe local government should only allow planting of trees that don't burn easily - like evergreens. I read in the NZ news that one lady died because she wouldn't leave her house without her make-up on and it meant the difference between her living and dying.

  95. Feeling bad for these fire victims who have lost everything. But on the other hand, you have to question the forethought of anyone who would build or live in these fire prone areas which have burned before. It's the same as people on the east coast who continue to build on the shore, and then expect that a hurricane will never wipe them out.

  96. Paradise and the area has been around forever. It was a sweet small town. You can’t take every fire in California as the same as idiots rebuilding on the coasts time after time. California is HUGE! Also, unlike houses at sea level, once an area burns, it should be good for a while. And with proper management, stay good. But the federal government keeps shrinking its forestry maintenance budget. Open spaces like we’ve got (the state is 840 miles top to bottom) require a corresponding big budget to manage - whether it’s federal (most), state, or private land. Forests and other open spaces that keep our country beautiful require constant, thoughtful management to prevent fires in the first place - so that an illegal campfire or a poorly-maintained transformer does not result in tragedy.

  97. California’s current and future environmental/greenhouse gas problems arise from all the devastating wildfires. See: “100 million dead trees in the Sierra are a massive risk for unpredictable wildfires” http://news.berkeley.edu/2018/01/18/sierra-wildfire-risk/ “Most western U.S. ecosystems like the Sierra Nevada are fire dependent, meaning that for millennia, the flora and fauna depended upon periodic low- to moderate-intensity fires to maintain ecosystem integrity. Following Euro-American settlement, aggressive fire suppression in the early 1900s created denser forests. These denser forests, in turn, have created greater competition among trees for water and other resources, making them prone to mortality from things like bark beetles during multi-year droughts, which is what happened in the Sierra.” “Dense forests of dead trees increase the amount and continuity of dry, combustible, large, woody material. Unless some of this dead biomass is removed, either mechanically or by fire, recent and current bark beetle-caused tree mortality in the Sierra Nevada could add 10s to 100s of megagrams per hectare of dry woody fuel to the wildland fuel complex.”

  98. With less car dependency and great reliance on mass transit this problem could be mitigated. Yet, our leaders insist on using the automobile as the key organizing system for transportation. This has proven very unwise, time and time again.

  99. I know these fires can move quickly, but still, I wonder if indeed people from all the affected areas did indeed leave their homes, as soon as there was an inkling of a fire in the distance, which could theoretically reach them. Were they informed in time, and again, knowing how quickly such fires can move? It's unfortunate that such fire-prone cities and towns could not have fleets of buses at the ready for such emergencies, to move residents to other areas. Buses (vs individual private cars) would mean less traffic to clog the highways. Unfortunately however, no residents are going to wait for the buses to stop by their homes or a particular street corner, and will instead hop into their own cars and take off. Why is this referred to as 'The Camp Fire'...is it because they indeed learned that the fire began that way? And if so, then it seems they obviously need to change the rules in such areas. Absolutely no fires, no BBQing, no smoking etc. can be allowed in the forest. And anyone seen breaking this law should be severely charged. And, while not aesthetically pleasing, would fire extinguishers (perhaps painted Forest Green) stationed every half mile on a utility pole in such areas...could that help in nipping a fire in the bud, if discovered just at the point of ignition? Or by then, is it already too late in such an environment?

  100. For those of us in the middle of this fire, President Trump's callous comments the other day are not appreciated and insulting. A raging fire does not distinguish between political affiliations, ethnic backgrounds, or other signifiers. Fire strikes all that is in its path. Trump's comments are also ill-informed and inappropriate. There has been really great outpouring of community support and help, something Americans do really well, contrary to the current lack of leadership in the White House.

  101. @Birdygirl Trump's comments were Ill-informed and inappropriate but not unexpected. This is the best he can do: be unhelpful and antagonistic.

  102. @Birdygirl Psychopathy: Psychopathy is a personality disorder characterized by persistent antisocial behavior, impaired empathy and remorse, and bold, disinhibited, and egotistical traits. Wake up Republicans! Remind you of anyone? Hint...initials are DJT

  103. @Birdygirl Those tweets will be carried in those hearts of the effected. No apologies or words will wash away the sting and hurt.

  104. Trump does have a point. The CA government needs to spend ( and manage*)some serious money to try and prevent these catastrophes. We have billions of $$ allocated to Brown’s pet project, the crazy train from LA to San Fran. Initiated in 2008, completion (if ever) eta: 2033. We could redirect that $ to building more water reservoirs and having small fleets of super tankers in key areas, ready to go. Have a heart Sacramento,and take care of your citizens.

  105. @On Alert In California With respect, water is not the answer. Building hardened homes with noncombustible materials and maintaining defensible space is better option. But here in Santa rosa after our fires, homes getting rebuilt with wood siding and fences...sigh.

  106. @On Alert In California The state has been in drought for decades. To not believe that this is not all inevitable is utter delusion.

  107. @On Alert In California Aside from Trump, I suggested something similar and several readers called my post "cruel." What is "cruel" about saving lives?

  108. Widening roads to allow quicker escapes would unfortunately result in clearing a lot of beautiful trees and vegetation. We can't have that. Anyway, how does California get someone else to pay for the improvements?

  109. The petty little man in the White House sends his vindictive tweets because it is, as always, all about him. He hates the entire state of California for not supporting him, and his ridiculous and uninformed comments suggest that we somehow got what we deserve. The difference between him and a normal person with a normal sense of empathy is that while he sees all of California as the 'enemy', we see the people who have lost their family members, homes, and in the case of Paradise an entire city, as neighbors who need our help, regardless of who they voted for.

  110. So our chief fabricateur hears something about forest management and cuts and pastes it into his worldview and then out the other end to become his brilliant policy position. Even if prescribed burns and thinning are good ideas where applicable, Trump finds new ways to abuse or pervert reason and truth itself.

  111. Prayers goes out to the families and firefighters in California.

  112. California is burning. People are dying. Homes are lost. Businesses are in flames. Firefighters risk their lives to put out the flames. I listen to NPR. Fire officials say there's nothing like this before. Who is to blame? Mother Nature? Too many people living in harm's way? Mismanagement? Maybe a combination of all of the aforementioned. It doesn't do much good to point fingers when people are hurting and the flames are killing and maiming. Let's figure out a way out of this and move forward. We need to help not harm. I am deeply sorry for the people in the path of these destructive fires. I live in Arizona and we know how crushing forest fires can be.

  113. Maybe if people stop expanding Into the Wilderness we wouldn't have this much tragedy

  114. Paradise, CA was/is not "wilderness."

  115. Lauri Kester has it right. Yes, this is the beginning of the environmental apocalypse. If the hurricanes don't kill you and destroy your home, the fires will. It will only get worse from here.

  116. Another president would look at the immense suffering of Californians & want to help. Donald Trump sees only a Blue state that he doesn't care about & denies disaster funding.

  117. Watching the video I see houses burning but trees are not burning around them. Maybe we should focus on making our buildings less flammable? Think of forest fire evacuation routes just as for hurricanes? This inferno in Paradise in the middle of November is absolutely terrifying - because if the fires are still raging at the beginning of the winter and traditionally wet season, what can we hope for the next July?? :(

  118. The military sits on the border looking at their phones and hanging out while they could be helping in California with the fires.

  119. @Jacquie Um, they have to be ordered to go to California. We can't just get up and go. That's called AWOL and it's kind of a big deal. I'm sure dozens of national guard units have been called in.

  120. trump reminds me of that relative or uncle who is always thinks he is smartest person; is the biggest braggart in the room; and he knows how to fix everything! You don't even have to asked! The clueless WW 1 no-show, slacker is also clueless about California wildfires!

  121. The president of the United States who is supposed to lead and protect us - speaking thusly to American citizens? Absolutely vicious and utterly disgraceful. He is a walking nightmare. Throw him out in 2020. I don't care if another Republican wins the White House as long as that person is mature, experienced, and responsible.

  122. Trump likes people who weren't caught in fires.

  123. Hey @NYT can you do some investigative journalism about the power lines? I read somewhere that the power company thought about a preemptive blackout because they knew that lines in the area might cause trouble during the Santa Ana winds and apparently that's what happened, a spark from the power lines? Also, wouldn't it be nice if we could ditch the power lines and every house in Sunny California had solar?

  124. In his pathetic play to the timber industry, trump blurted out that these fires are the result of poor forest management. So, these disasters could have been prevented by logging the manzanita, bitterbrush, greasewood and grass left dry by years of drought that is exacerbated by man-caused global warming?

  125. The worst and most deadly and destructive fire in California history. 31 people have already perished and 100 are still unaccounted for. 6400 homes and a city have been destroyed. And what relief and condolences does our President offer? He blames the California Fire Service and threatens to withhold federal aid. I've run out of normal Webster Dictionary words to describe this man. Only words left are the pejorative, expletive deleted variety. Ones many of us have hollered at our television sets in the privacy of our living rooms.

  126. This morning I am awakened by howling hurricane force wind gusts of. 40-65 m.p.h. My heart is troubled by the loss of life and homes. Please readers focus on what support and guidance you can offer to those who will be effected for years.

  127. As a long time resident of California, I have consistently wondered about people's choices. Granted, it is lovely to live in an idyllic setting amongst trees and running brooks with few neighbors. However, think about the inevitable fire, flood or earthquake and how you propose to get out. I have some sympathy for these folks and what they lost, but none when they ask for low interest loans from the government to rebuild.

  128. What troubles me most is these almost weekly reports of natural disasters, that leave entire sections of our country looking like a Mad Max landscape are representatives and a President who do nothing, absolutely nothing...in fact, they double down on nothing by eliminating funding from agencies who study these disasters and who are charged with preventing these disasters. And now, the newest response to these disasters, from our President, is to blame the victims of these tragedies.

  129. @ACJ Donald Trump is such a Master of Blame.

  130. He is always “Passing the buck”

  131. The one sure thing we know about all this: A New York real estate flim-flam artist, whose been faking himself and others out for his entire life (read about Trump University and have yourself a laugh), who's total knowledge about this issue equals his total amount of reading on and consideration of the issue - zero - yet who ALWAYS believes he's the most qualified to mouth off about EVERYTHING… (man, don't you hate numbskulls like that at work or in your family) Is positively the LEAST qualified to give his opinion or ideas about all this. And, for some reason, he's the President of the United States. God may love America but, apparently, God likes a good practical joke even more! God is waiting for all of to get the joke. Some thankfully did last Tuesday. Waiting for the rest to get it.

  132. It can be pretty boring here in the Midwest sometimes. But the Fires in CA scare me to death! Even from far away. Like a worst nightmare. I care about you folks! I care about my son who lives and works in LA. I fear one day I’ll be phoning him with no answer.... The place we need to clear is the White House!!! 2020 - VOTE!!!

  133. There are many crazy ideas and comments of what the fires are about: mismanagement in Sacramento, having less car dependency, spending too much on the train (What?). Im from NY and lived in Seattle for 15 years and I know many friends from those cities and states who point their fingers at CA and say its your own fault. But CA is not like you. This is the 5th largest economy in the world, a nation within a nation. First, we (like coastal East Coast communities), like cities near the Gulf (Houston, NO) build houses within these "disaster zones" so we suffer the consequences. We can abate this through stricter bldg codes. Second, why cant the US govt support us immediately, instead of pointing fingers, only? Third, if these catastrophies are increasing in regularity and intensity, create a National Response Team. Many comments here suggest something like this. Take the money out of military budgets. God knows they have it. The B2 Spirit Bomber is costing $737M per plane. Elim 1 plane and you can have 100 new fire trucks plus crews. Its too easy to point fun at CA and say its your own fault. We, people, want to live near the ocean, in the sun, by the beach, and as long as that is so, we will all suffer the consequences of fires like these. Coming together can create some National response to these disasters, in support of local and very very brave firefighters who selflessly save lives each time these disasters happen.

  134. Robert I am terribly sorry for what California is going through! Then when our heartless monster of a president is blaming you and saying no financial help?!!! I am furious at his heartless response. It is our Taxpayer money he is using to nonstop fly around the country in Air Force One campaigning and vacationing. He is truly despicable and getting worse. The fires are terrifying and no comfort from Washington DC.

  135. Hi, I'm an editor with the Reader Center who is wondering what questions you may have about the relationship between climate change and wildfires. I'm planning a live Q&A with one of our climate change reporters, Kendra Pierre-Louis, to answer some of your questions. She will be live today at 3 p.m. Eastern on Facebook. Tell me what you would like to know and I'll try to get an answer.

  136. Many of those homes are where they are because so-called "developers" make a ton of money putting them there. It is long past time that "developers" be made to post bond to cover the losses induced by their profits, and not only in California.

  137. I am taken aback by some of these comments. These towns aren't "wilderness." They have running water and cell phone service. They have cable. They have power. They get mail. These towns aren't new either. They have been here a long time with few fires (like every other place in CA). To suggest that Paradise or Malibu somehow "had it coming" is mean-spirited and irresponsible. People were burnt alive in their cars less than 96 hours ago trying to escape this inferno and you are already blaming them for it, as if anyone intends to die that way. Would you have said this about the people in Santa Rosa recently? That they had it coming? Established communities in CA have been wiped off the map and people can't find where their homes once stood. No one expected anything like this. No one WANTS to pull bodies out of homes and cars. What are people thinking? If we evacuate all of the fire-prone areas of this state, it will be empty. Should we make the entire state a wildlife preserve? Burnt patches along the side of our highways and freeways are an everyday sight in the valleys of Northern and Central California. This place burns. Easily. We have the best firefighters because they get a lot of practice.

  138. My heart goes out to these folks. I used to live in Ventura, California - itself a place of great destruction last year. I left Ventura 3 decades plus back and have no desire to live in California. First, it is simply too expensive and sure weather is good - but crowded cities, these risks - not really worth it. For many Californians, there simply is no choice as all their networth - if any - is tied into a property they live in. And increasingly, it is getting harder to unload them. There is no solution to this except folks who make a choice to live there - make choices that they may regret. One thing for sure, I agree with sentiments below - don't look to a government handout - just like this folks insisting on living in flood areas, hurricanes and tornado alleys - Congress has basically said, you are on your own.

  139. I live in fire country. We have one vehicle in which we keep two bicycles, with tires fully inflated, for just such a situation.

  140. Have they found the people that started the fire? Most are arson, whether accidental and careless or deliberate for thrills. This needs to be the focus as well. CA has always been prone to fires as it's mostly an arid state; dry most of the year. When people start these fires, there must be some repercussions. And talking about climate change isn't it.

  141. I have lived in Chico nearly 40 years. I have friends from Paradise living here now. It's an awful tragedy in every respect. Your article is incorrect re: Skyway being the only way out. There are two other roads people fled on: Pentz Road (where Feather River Hospital stands) and Neal Road. Friends on Pentz barely got out with fires on both sides. Friends on Neal had a bit more time. Your writers need to check this out, since many firefighters/ police/ law enforcement are continually going up and down those roads, doing their work

  142. Good thing Global warming is a myth. I know because President Trump told me.

  143. To paraphrase what I heard from the current Oval Office Occupant, "If California would only handle its water and its forests right, they wouldn't have problems with fires". Right. Never in my eight decades have I heard an American President to be so callously unheeding, irresponsible, and ignorant. Never have I heard an American President so denigrate a State of our Union - oh, right, but Puerto Rico isn't a State, is it? We need our leaders to unite us, not divide us. We need help with disasters such as these fires, or hurricanes, or floods. I have sent funds to the American Red Cross this year, and previous years, in response to hurricanes, floods, and fires that have devastated Texas, Florida, North and South Carolina, Puerto Rico, and California. I may not agree with the leaders of some of those areas, but the people there need help. Please, Mr. Trump, don't build walls. Build consensus. You might find it rewarding.

  144. As someone who grew up in California and worked on Forest Ecology we have question for years the planning agencies that permit developments in areas of risk. We need to look at the risk of placing developments into wooded areas with high fire risk. Also forest practices prevented small fires from burning thus leading to more fuels building up. Without controlled burns or small fires the larger fires burn hotter. The practice of planting trees close together in tree farmed areas causes problems. In some areas trees of all the same age and height rather than old growth trees that are more resilient to fires. Many areas are over logged and then replanted with single crops destroying the natural forest ecology. Drier weather patterns caused by Climate Change may also exasperate fire conditions.

  145. As I understand it, camp fires are one of the main causes of these fires. When I lived in Colorado, camp fires were prohibited when the season was very dry. This was also true in other areas of the Southwest. There were signs to tell what the danger was and when it was above a certain rating there were no campfires allowed. It seems to me that either there are not such rules or people are simply disregarding them. Either way, this is a call for more rangers and stronger regulations. Of course, all must be enforced.

  146. The fire was not started by a literal campfire, its name comes from the location near Camp Creek RD. There are stories regarding the possibility it was caused by downed PG&E power lines.

  147. @Elizabeth California has very strict rules about camp fires, and we DO have those signs everywhere warning us of fire danger. Just wanted to let you know.