The Camp Fire began on the clear morning of November 8, 2018, which made it eerier still, a radiant sky that turned black. Through the pines and cedars came the persistent sound of crackling foil. Propane tanks exploded like bombs. Most people in Butte County had lived through multiple fires before—this is northern California, this is wildfire country—but no one had seen one like this, so fast and enveloping. No one had experienced the unique horror of watching the hospital burn, or the Safeway, as flames lapped at the sides of their own cars on the one main road out. No one had witnessed a whole town go.
The fire burned through rural Concow, through Magalia, through Paradise. On Butte Creek, it burned the Honey Run Covered Bridge, a local landmark for 132 years. It devastated entire neighborhoods, and inexplicably it left some houses unscathed. It is believed to have originated on Camp Creek Road, north of Paradise, which is where the Camp Fire, now the deadliest and most destructive in California’s history, got its name.
The president repeatedly called Paradise “Pleasure” when he visited a little over a week after the blaze, advised the state to “rake” the forest floor, and made repeated threats to cut off federal disaster aid. “We cannot continue to spend billions of dollars, billions and billions of dollars,” he said in early February. “Forest fires are totally preventable.” Trump’s pronouncement came two days after 100 Camp Fire victims were told they could no longer camp on their own lands as they rebuilt, because of benzene contamination, and a week after the Red Cross closed its last relief shelter in Chico, which still housed approximately 600 people.
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