« Reveal

Burning Hotter and Faster

2018-11-24 | 🔗

Half of California’s 10 worst wildfires have struck in the last two years. We look at the recent Camp Fire, which is the deadliest and most destructive in state history. And we revisit an investigation from earlier this year looking at how extreme wildfires are breaking our emergency response systems. Produced in partnership with KQED.

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Hey. It is your favorite host in all of pod custom. Now for the rest of the year, I'm gonna be asking you to join us by becoming a member of reveal reveal is all about going deep, pulling on threads telling stories that matter for more than three years now reveal has been fighting a lawsuit. That's been jeopardizing our very existence of restore. We about an organization called planet aid, our story raises serious questions about whether international aid was actually reaching the people. It was intended to help and what's more, our story was truthful and we stand by it. We believe it is our duty to fight attacks like this, but fighting a lawsuit comes at a huge costs. Are legal fees alone totalled more than seven million dollars? Luckily, we have pro bono legal support to help our in house counsel, but it still takes significant resources, resources that should be used to do more public service journalists. This kind of investigative
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Ritual began with a small town of Paradise. California, late in the afternoon. Local officials walk up to a microphone and give an update day, and additional six human remains recovered today, then course or search eight human remains cover. The number of people who are still looking for cash or has increased since more than ten thousand homes in Paradise, burned to the ground and was become known as a campfire. It's worse, wildfire stated We all know. The final death count until emergency personnel can complete their search. Hundreds of people went missing the fire star, about six. Thirty in the morning, one of em remote area about fifteen miles. Outside of road are moved very quickly of heroin.
Residents in emergency responders? We are in a better with Niver one right now unable to do anything that kid you Eddie, Suki, Louis Judy, Suki Louis, has been listening to dispatch cause and piecing together. Of timeline of what happened in the it's an hours at the camp fire. She joined us, hey, Suki, how so so? How does this fire get out of control so quickly. Well, it was the conditions. It was really windy and hot and dry, but it was also the location of where this fire sparked em. It was way out down this rural road that was nearly impossible and the first fire fighter to respond drives out as close as he can get. He gets eyes on the fire within ten minutes of the first report, but he can tell by looking. At that fighting this fire is gonna, be really really tat fire over her, so they can't get to it
He actually sends another fire fighter to scout out a way to get to the fire, but in the a vacuum they decide. They need to evacuate this little tiny town called. Oh, oh, this is now all of this is going on. Were people alerted in the town of Paradise, so people in the paradise, had not gotten alerts as of eight out these first, they send out these first alerts at that point and vacuum Claire a mandatory evacuation for many areas in Paradise, but the again this is often system, and we do know that the sheriff did not Use the wireless emergency alerts that magneto kind of could have let everybody no pretty quickly that This was going on. Those are those amber style alerts that hijack your phone and make a loud noise. So many people not get alerts and they have to keep it.
Standing these evacuation orders even as they're trying to get people out of them, So mandatory evacuations means that law enforcement starts going door to door to get people outright. Yes, oh, going door to door, but already there are reports of people who are getting trapped, including firefighters and first responders. You know on the tape I heard so many of these reports of first responders getting stuck inside the fire line and they had to evacuate hospitals, schools and even once first responders made it in to people who are trapped. They still had to get them out to safety, so rude the paradise actually business plans for
evacuation did that help streamlined this incident. Their plans were more pretty much overwhelmed, as everybody rushed to get out of town traffic becomes this huge problem and they try to shut, down the main arteries leading out of town to have all traffic going the fire to help people setting from the but even just setting that up becomes really chaotic. People are abandoning their cars at one point, they have cars, actually take another giant truck to push cars, way to clear the way for residents who are trying to do cream out of this town and escape from this fire and the next big problem that I see the owl is that people can't get in to help and, as we know now, many people did not make it out in some ways. Hearing this unfolded brings this horrible feeling of deja vu. I mean just last year when we talked about the worst wildfires
first or yes, and so many issues are the same like as a rapporteur for me, and in many ways it feels like I'm having to tell the same story over again from the evacuation alerts that are not getting out too. You know We are not getting out many of the people who are the victims of this fire who are elderly and disabled, and it's just heartbreaking. Suki he's been covering more of these fires because, while they keep getting worse last year at this time, she and her colleagues a kid you D, Risa Logos, LISA Pick of white reported on a fire that scorched one country and Napa and Noma counties. They found that emergency response systems, including cow fire, the state agency, that response wildfire, aren't build to keep up with the fires that are burning hotter faster than ever before.
We're gonna, listen back to that story and then dig into some of the lessons learned. Risa starts us off in the hills above Sonoma counties, biggest city Santa Rosa granting Christina well send and October eighth puttering around their house, it's close to coffee shops and grocery stores. But from here all you see her tree tops and grassy, Besides on Sundays, we hang out at home. You know I'm always working so I was probably doing have work and watching for all whatever their in their early fifties. She's a mortgage advisor. He's a lawyer, they have a two year old dog shit, Sunni Maximus, MAX for short, they live in a tight knit neighbourhood upon a hell, we're neighbors take time to chat and, after years of work, remodeling the house finally felt fully theirs. It feels, like you, know, you're. Just in this, be no serene fighting so far away.
This is like our dream. On that Sunday, Christina stands in her new bright kitchen. Looking out of the windows, it was a lot window than formal and it was very warm. It was a warm day. Christina, doesn't think much of the wind But what she doesn't realise is that wind will soon bring fire to her doorstep inside how fire war room there worried that something like that could happen. Suki takes us. There were officials are already on standby, Fire fighters are ready to mobilise because the national weathers, press has issued a red flag warning the highest alert for fire danger, then, around seven thirty, in the evening, nine one one dispatchers get concerning call county attention. A collar Lucia
power line, arguing her head, but at the end of the man, tells the dispatcher that wins not the power line into a tree, but there are a lot of hard work. I fired at the good power lines for its part How can the dispatcher says some one is on? The way then makes this a top priority should consult. The you'd screen to send the nearest engine out to respond, but the wind keeps picking up about twenty minutes later, a woman dials nine one one to report transformer blow. Miles away any one know. Maybe I like it was a big fire work that went on later, I'm here to hear a murmur of abiding by the way they know what's happening here.
Is that high winds are knocking down power lines. These send out sparks starting little fires than is lying go down, the electricity needs to go somewhere, so it gets redistributed. This overloads other lines. Creating power, searches, transformers explode, taking down more of the electrical ground as Kehl Fire gets these reports they contact p d, any the local utility company and together they have the ability to do who a few things the utility can send out linemen to deal with individual incidents or shut down power remotely or a combination of both higher power. On that night, cow fire and peony go by
seizure, dealing with these incidents, one by one, relying on linemen. They can't keep up. This is when you can first hear things getting out of control. It's like a game of Wakeham all cow fires. Map is getting crowded their running out, people to send even as new fires break out quite workout by or tolerate got no more repressive, kept them anybody. With I want to send to put out all these small fires to blazes explode almost simultaneously about Thirty miles apart in the forest, Hills of Sonoma. County gusts of wind are sweeping up burning, tree branches and debris and hurling these embers miles through the air. The blaze starts. Jumping from one mountain peak to another leap, Frog in valleys racing through Napa vineyards and devouring homes across both counties and its
Rushing toward the city of Santa Rosa Home to a hundred and said Five thousand people and for fire fighters is becoming clear. These fires there facing are of a different order. Tell fire. Captain Jeff Home is in the middle of all of this he's like low voice of God to his troops All night long, firefighters hear him The radio taking their calls and coordinating their response from the cow Fire WAR room Hoag sends out a reminder: crackling over the radio public safety for the public safety for the rescuers do what you can. What that means is putting out fires, isn't the priority anymore for fire fighter The singular focus is saving human lives, including their own. At ten, thirty cow fire starts.
Calling local law enforcement agencies and Napa and Sonoma two initial you'd have occasion in this game of telephone. You can hear a lot go wrong. Michel. I need a reversal in one one down ok, ok, I need it for the caliph, though area mandatory evacuation, this cow fire employee is asking a nap operator for first nine one one- that's it accusation, alert that can target specific neighborhoods warning people. Fire is approaching. It calls whom funds, but only about how of Americans have landlines these days copy advise Calvary. Your question is Ebay River in Ireland. When are you feeling the collar? I need you guys to send out a reverse, my once a week and tell them to evacuate programmed about unfair, not familiar with whatever fun. When one is, I'm sorry
This is another one of those places where you can hear the system breaking down the operator, doesn't even know what cow virus talking about. That's actually cuz each county in California. There are fifty eight uses, different technologies with different names to alert. To catch fire, its reverse nine. When one to Napa, it's called an exciting the public and everyone needs to go to all their found landline and everything. I mind evacuation ya in this call, how fires requesting and evacuation ordered, but it still takes an hour before long. Enforcement officials and Napa issue text alert to the public. They won't
all people on their landlines until the next day over the course of the night. Delay and confusion happen again and again right and it didn't just happen and Napa back at the home of Christina and Gregg Wilson. The phone rings around ten at night, but it's not Sonoma County officials calling you. I got a phone call around ten o clock from one of my friends who lives about three miles away and she's. Like you know, I see fire in the distance and looks like it's coming really close. They out the window and can see a faint glow of fire. Christina Husband, Gregg chats with the neighbours and prepares to leave, just in case they two cars that valuables a new painting dog, treats for MAX
All the while that fire in the distance fuelled by high winds is burning much closer soon. It's right at the end of their street, then all of a sudden. It was like just coming on so close that everybody at the same time decided to leave they get in their cars and start driving their neighbours are all trying to get out to and the narrow road is clogged with traffic flame surround them. I was just stud thought: let's turn around the fire keeps growing as they had back home and when they get their their house is on fire to so they go to the one place where the flames can't reach so great silicious get in the pool, and it made sense because I just did swimming pool, Christina and Gregor say from the flames, but not the smoke or the air, It were to an excess of a thousand degrees Fahrenheit such superheated trying brief, was sword
at air- is so hot. It consumes the oxygen before they can catch her breath it, but their lungs and its white Gregson. You sound so horse. Gregg holds Maximus their dog he's squeezes Christina hand as they died under the water I just those first, twenty minutes, starting down coming up, sometimes not really getting anywhere at all. But you say your garden: I gotta go down again. They plunged into the freezing cold water again and again just to get a break from the blaze. The solar panels bubble and burst. Gregg watches their dream home turns to ash the fires creating its own weather, weeping debris all over the place, flying Amber's had maximus in the eye We have time tug each other in saying this could be it on
now and then re now it in a couple more times. You know that the world, only guy because we are altogether was like waiting lay because I can bear the thought of separating you know if we drop down in one of us made him one of us ten drivers meeting about you know I just didn't think we would have a chance to revise its at this point. That authority send out the first evacuation orders. This call when, under the eleven thirty pm, such a resident third, as a large fire, how part was ring road several often claim we are recommending that you refer to evacuate your home. And go to safe area, this point
I call goes out as the Wilson's are huddling together in the water, their cell phones on the side of the pool have melted into a pile of metal and splinter glass. Only about twelve hundred people live in the hills above Sinner Rosa received that initial evaluation- coal, as a fire, boost out of a wildly racing tool. Densely populated neighborhoods. Most people are asleep, their beds and have no idea what's coming when we come back soon Emma Risa take us into the neighborhood where people are waking up to a wall of flames. This is from the centre for investigating reporting in p from the centre for investigative reporting in p r eggs. This is reveal I'll let the country wildfires were getting. More extreme
California. This year's fires have proven deadlier in more destructive than ever, blazes share many of the same characteristics as the fires down the river Northern California, why country last October, which at the time with a deadly in state history Kate, you D reporters LISA, pick off white Risa logos and Suki Louis looking at last year's fires and where we can learn from the crucial decisions that were made in the first hours of those diseases. We join Suki in the hills about the city of Santa Rosa where shares deputy stumbling through the dark choking on smoke, trying to get residents to safety This is audio from a sheriff deputies body can, in the dark two officers pound on doors yelling at people to get out
This may come across a woman who can't walk. They carry her out of her house to their square, car by her arms and legs joint watch. What you want as the deputy drives out, he can barely see out of his windshield. It's just smoke embers go: go, go, go, go rescuers, will not get to every door. On this night at least eight people, will end up dying along this road, our point in the video just around midnight. The officer gets on the radio to ask about a neighborhood to the west efficiently. Evaluations is far worse as regards he's telling dispatchers they need to expand evacuations pushing towards me
were heard in Santa Rosa called fountain broke. I wanna watch at one a m. This man calls to report on winery and fountain. Grove is on fire wandering I'm watching a right now, the boreal right towards ok, I need a legal area. Then, despite many calls like them it would be another hour merely to. I am before authority start calling people and Fountain Grove and telling them to evacuate. Then the fire so Cross highway, one or one. A six lean freeway that runs through the middle of the city Then, on the other side of that freeway and coffee park, a dense neighborhood, where within Santa Rosa City, proper wake up to flee
in the middle of the night, the other gunfire whereby ok cause. I know you're far right now. This fire has been headed toward their homes for four hours. But as Marie and I found out few people here get alerts of any kind so no, my officials could have notified every single person with a cellphone in that area through the same kind of system. It takes over your phone with those loud amber alert, but that wasn't there procedure. Instead, They chose to send another type of alert to specific areas that reached fewer people. They did this in two ways through texan emails, using a system that people have to sign up for of time the county doesn't know how many people got those warnings, because it doesn't track that the following message
in the center was emergency operations and they also may cause to people's landmines. But only a third of those got through on the first try evaluate how fire battalion Chief, Jonathan Cox, with fires. Moving a hundred yards a minute chewing through phone lines and downing cellphone towers officials couldn't keep up. It was one of those instances where the disaster was moving faster than literally people could communicate. Up in the hills above Santa Rosa, the mass of flame front has passed, leaving Greg Christina Wilson. The couple who hid in their swimming pool wet and freezing their lungs burnt. You know I thought we would die exhausted and no longer able to support herself Christina lies on a narrow, concrete ledge. The deck around her burned away hours ago have heartbreaking,
Anything else is just watch in that house burn and which is how can each other on the ground. Then Gregg, here's something this law wail of a siren. I mean you know it's a slob. Why am I gonna get closer at that point? I just I got up, and I'm talkin like this, but I'm just wait screaming the Wilson's are saved by chance one of their name earth managed to call a cop. She was dating, who got caught fire to save them. Rescuers drive the Wilson's to a hospital lasting. I remember. Christine I was lying on. A guardian I was lying on a journey with MAX and there was a nurse Jane Maximus and then they said We were gonna knock you Gregg in Christina covered in Burma, are put into a medically induce coma. Nurses have to me
them to another facility, because even the hospital catches fire their dog max is alive, but is near a blind. I am very impressed with my wife. The only thing you worry about is: are you know you just do it? You do survive and we want at this point fire fighter. Still aren't even thinking about putting out blazes they're just trying to save as many people as they can. But there are when so many firefighters and that mutual aid system- where neighbouring counties tat each other when they need help cow fires. Anna He bore a lil says it's breaking Sonoma depleted. They have made your fire going. They called naphtha now
but has a major fire going. They don't have any resources descend, they call lake, late counties, depleted. They have a major fire going, so they call their closest neighbour Mendocino Mendocino has a major fire going. They don't have any resources to said earlier, have any one left to draw from and that map in her war room, there's some fires she's all out of magnets she's using post. It notes instead and the nearest Additional fire fighters are hours away all these counts. Means that our touching each other, because that's where the weather event went through right are all impacted with their own disaster that whether event means more counties are getting hit by Hurricane Forest Gust of up to eighty miles per hour, and people are continuing to call nine one. One reporting electrical problems surge, power lines and explosions and they're not sparking new fires there preventing first responders from doing their job because they're not supposed to touch.
Reason drive over a power line until electrical workers can guarantee the line is dead. We ask unit chief burly why cow fired, didn't consider asking the utility to shut down the power grid. That is not something that too, we have historically done, but how fire can do this. They do it in southern California, campfires Jonathan Cock says it's just procedure in this part of the state are world that we operate in is very procedurally driven policy and procedural driven right were were one colleague here in the large California, COG, we'll. This decision may have proven critical. As the fires spread north to Mendocino County There are two things that I have outlined: the down the road,
that highway when hundred one running through Santa Rosa. If you follow at seventy miles, north the town start getting further apart, the farmlands more space, in the early morning hours a woman in a small town, Redwood Valley finds herself surrounded by fire. She calls man one one that regulate right now. I dont know, madam throughout the night. This is a pattern. Nine on one operators can't give people clear directions on which way to flee. They tell them to shelter and place to wait for a knock on the door to drive through flames. Nobody seems to know to do I've been trying to call nine one run through a few minutes nobody's hampered. In my opinion, there is a lot of I urge all over the county, for the best thing I can do is take whatever action you feel was necessary and appropriate. Ok, ok! Can you tell me where to I called to find out. Where would I know no one man literally, there are multiple fires.
Remember just down the road from this cholera, Redwood Valley, fire chief, Brendan Turner, is directing his crews. Trying to get residents to safety pulled over at the bottom of a gated dirt driveway making calls for more fire engines smoke billows around him, making it hard to see and some one walks out of the darkness toward him. He said he needed help, so I got him over to the back, My patrol on that point I was, I was realizing. That hid had significant burns to his his hand as well as his face. And I asked him his name any kind of cocked his head to decide which Brennan. Why are you asking me this and that's when I realized that I knew who ever this person was and when he, when he told me his name, my my heart, just
his name is John Shepherd. He tells her that he got separated from his wife and two teenage kids. There still up there in the fire They know his family very well, my aid donors, I grew with him, not all family, and I was that was hard. In a town, a small as Redwood Valley, everyone knows each other for his fire fighters. Those aren't just three victims up on the hill. They are their friends and neighbours This was another one of those areas where I was extremely concerned for the safety of the responders. Also, because they were you know they were going make it up that he'll one way or the other turner has to make an impact
simple decision and at one point I had taken a poem back a little bit and and say we have to wait until this passes a little bit before we get up there. We are not able to help other people if we become victims as soon as the flames Pass Turner sends his fire fighters up the hill among them twenty three year old Garrett, Johnson, who also knows the Shepherd family Garrett finds the mall and her seventeen year old, daughter Cressida when we got up there, they're both conscious alert speaking with us. So I have high hopes for while they wait for an ambulance to arrive Johnson and the other, their fighters dress their burns and give them oxygen. It still too dark and smoky to get a helicopter onto the valley floor to air left them the mother was slightly declining as we're take her off the hill
from my assessment I thought the daughter was the lesser of the two injuries turns on those the Shepherd parents survived with severe injuries, but Crasser an aspiring artist and a junior in high school underwent model surgeries and ultimately died at a hospital. Her fourteen year old brother, Kai who loved lying in the San Francisco giants. He didn't make it off the hill. Ass. The sun rose that learning over Redwood Valley, chief, Brendan Turner, was. On the west side of the valley. Joy head vantage point of basically, area. On the valley floor, the returned- and it was surreal, knew it was hard to imagine what I was saying again.
The community that a lot of us have call home for a long time to witness that amount of devastation and and still not know yet People we had missing it wasn't that was just his gut wrenching to see that the fires clean forty four lives, injured. Hundreds of people number more than nine thousand buildings to the ground, they were dead. He's wildfires state history. Until now, just over a year later, Northern California campfire has been even deadlier. Risa join me with more hey, sir. How so Marie so far go back to the fires you reported on in the show. Again, it's been over a year do we know yet what spark them, while we
don't know what sparked the biggest and deadly ass the tubs fire, which was the one that hit the city of Santa Rosa, but in about sixteen other cases throughout their the part of the state we do know. The electrical utility Pacific, ass, an electric or Pga any- is being blamed by state investigators and in many of those case we also know that the states says that peach any acted negligently in that they do not keep their electrical equipment to the standards are expected to by law. P Genie could of power down portions of the electrical grid preemptively during extreme weather, but it wasn't company policy Do that hasn't changed at all in the last year you have its re and this Pierre did come out and say that they were changing their policy, that they now in certain conditions where it's very hot and dry, and the winds are very strong, They may, in some situations, tell residents that they could lose their power and we actually did see them do that once this fall, but they did.
Not do it in view county where the camp fire broke out. I'm answer those questions raised about whether that was the right decision. Kijiji any did report a disturbance on one of its big transmission lines, very close to where firefighters believe the camp fire started, thus lead to a lot of speculation about whether piece you need did cause this latest fire and what it could mean for the utilities future prison drove just visited. The fires of both northern and so California, he pledged federal help, but Trump has also been critical of state leaders, blaming these fires on poor forest management. What should we make their criticism for about a hundred years, the state and federal officials really worked to aggressively suppress fires, well, then, and what happens is that means a lot of dry fuel has built up over that time, but this is well beyond just a forest management problem in California. We ve had
really extreme drought conditions in California, the heat we're senior round which many a tribute to climate change, so to say that this is just an issue of cleaning up more dead brush and tree is to really oversimplify a problem that has just exploded in its magnitude over the last couple years. Teresa thanks so much for dogma, thanks for having me off as reporter for Kqed she and her colleagues to pick off White and Sukey Lewis reported on last year's fireforce we're going to keep investigating the effects of wildfires, including smoky air, that is blanketed much California this year. If you had to get treatment for heart or breathing problems or if you treated people for conditions related to smoke, get in touch with us just text. The word fire to sixty three thousand seven hundred and thirty five begin text fire to sixty three thousand seven hundred and thirty five. You can text stop at any time.
Standard data rates apply back in a minute. This is reveal from the centre for investigate reporting in p r. Ex this is reveal amount letter, wildfires used to come around once a year. Wildfire Caesar but lately happening year round their getting bigger burning, hotter, but there's another reason. Fires deadlier and more destructive. It has to do with her and where we build, we wanted their story with you that we are earlier this year investigating. What is now only the second most destructive fire in California, history tubs via the one. The burned down the neighborhoods found Grove and Coffee Park. Last October, it killed twenty two people and destroyed more than five thousand buildings. Most of those buildings when the city of Santa Rosa, but fire
started miles outside of town came through hills. That months later, are a mix of blackened oak and the first new shoots of green grass it's weird, it's like in a state of death in rebirth. At the same time, I drove out to a clearing between these hills to meet someone who saw the fire coming. His name is John Felts. He seventy years old and since he was a kid he's worked out, here is families Mountain home, rich cabins and barns that would turned into a bed and breakfast and retreats in Georgia. We looking at here was the large. It was three story, concrete house. With a chimney made of petrified would now it's just a chimney and a pile of twisted rebar broken see, met. We instead, the inventory and boy doing inventories really is a cheerful thing and I'll catch. You in your mind why again to each room. Ok, what was in there and
very emotional when they came and tore it down. A long goes maybe two weeks weak recently selfish yeah, but his heart was to lose the rich. It wasn't unexpected. Everyone Johns family trains to fight wildfires. They even had their own fire trucks because the ridge well it's burned before. This is the third time, the first time was in the thirties for John was born, but the second time was in nineteen sixty four. This is a newsreel from back then worst forest fires on the history of northern California have laid waste a quarter of a million acres. More than half a dozen buildings burned, the John still in high school, I was able to use water from a near by swimming pool, helps
the cabins his grandfather built the nineteen sixty four fire last year's tubs fire both started just a few miles from Johns Ranch and both of them blue from the hills to Santa Rosa. In fact, if you draw an outline of the nineteen, sixty four fire map it's kind of eerie right in exactly the same pattern as the one. This year I made it burned almost identical, but with one key difference, even though these two fires burnt the same land. The fire in the nineteen sixties didn't kill anybody burn nearly as many homes and this one obvious reason when the fires came through in the sixties, I'm sure,
that the community of Santa Rosa was not built up the way it is now almost nobody. In fact, Crap Grove was not built. Coffee park was a Hayfield coffee park lost more than fourteen hundred homes and lashes fire found Grove lost more than six, one thousand eight hundred and they'll be allowed to rebuild and then they're going to do it again, but that a fire will come again there, but they seem to rebuild their yeah. I do at least the way they had it. The way they had it dense neighbourhood of hilltop, Lik mansions, with Santa Rosa at their feet and rolling mountains in the distance. But now it's full of big, yellow machines. Clearing the last chunks of Mc Mansion of Sea meant foundations.
I mean it looks like they say the type of ruins that you would see like in Greece or something those ruins tell a story. If you know wildfires like revealed data reporter Eric Cigar, you see down, there are still an actual part of a building standing. There's not a huge amount of space there, You worry about wildfires, you wanna, keep plenty of space between you and anything that will burn. That means bushes and trees, but also other houses. If you have a huge house on small lot, you don't have a whole lot of like space to clear and defend yourself if bushes and houses or wildfire rocket fuel. This deep hillside is like a wild fire launch pad because he rises, but the fire risk here so obvious. How does it all get built in the first place? For that arrogant? I pulled in reveals pet
Michael's or it's the development fountain grove sort of begins in the early seventys. When you ll Packard, wants to move up from Palo Alto and put a tech campus there. This is the human factor and age be sixty five. The first fully programmable pocket sized calculator, Hewlett Packard, built a campus on part of it and the rest of it was basically worker how and that's what started this building spree out on the hillside and sort of one after another, the master plan community started popping up on the hills above Santa Rosa, see this from the air: that's Eric Cigar again have and animation here, to show you how that growth looks ok. So what am I looking at here so up Eric shows me a time lapse, Bird's, eye view of Santa Rosa and, if you look great where this dark spot is. That is found grove on those dark, green hills at the edge of the city white. That's in line start appearing. The house This is the streets and in the late nineties they take over that's Adam
the massive amount of growth in a relatively short period, tat right, so Eric all of these houses are going up in a fire problem, will in. This area is a unique to this part of California. No one actually isn't as actually pretty common throughout the count this fire upon. They were talking about the wild man, urban interfaces, where homes and vegetation kind collide and mixed together and some What county is that the population in these areas grew by about twenty percent over the course of two decades. That's actually Reda the national average. Imagine what about the people who move into these type of houses I mean, did they know about the fire danger? Well, not really, we met with a woman named Susan Goran who moved in the nineties. Hunted attend, for a permanent home while we rebuild their own home just burned down. Those fellows were rescued in that her husband had a job at you,
and she and her husband were both big outdoors people. The national beauty of Cinema County is what really policy. And then our family was growing and we need a larger house. Sadly that house, in that entire neighbourhood is gone, found growth that was in fact and grow. And so living on this new, heavily treed hillside really what they were. Therefore, an interesting fact Is that one of them of trees, have been incorporated in the deck. In other words, the deck was built around the oak tree and you could see the scars up the limbs of this very old oak tree and it was free the Hamley fire fifty years ago, that was her first clue there. In any farther before- and I said- oh that's interesting piece of history: ok, but it never dawned on me that it would be repeated was I aware of the fire risk, then
not as strongly as I am now for sure. Socially, strongly aware the fire risk now, because our house burn down right, but so because now she's, a Sonoma, counted, supervised, and so in that job part of our job is to use which he knows about fire risk to help determine what people build where accounting and how she doing that. What is Susan Goin doing about people who want to build? homes in these fire prone areas. Well, We sat down with her. We asked her if you can see a circumstance, worm wildfire risk on some. And is just so extreme that you as a supervisor would feel comfortable. Not allowing construction on their period. It is pretty hard or ass any decision maker, sue, say to any property owner that Sir
we're not going to rebuild large swathes of Sonoma County. I think that it is not. It is not air to the homeowners and it's not feasible for the policy with their dealing with apart the immediate disaster of the fire is that new everyone who is displaced in the fire, those are all taxpayers as well, and so the He is facing a multi million dollar shortfall in its budget, so they want to get people. Rebuilding made hole and back into their homes in Santa Rosa as quickly as possible. They even set about office to expedite the permitting process for people who wanted to rebuild their Arms we visited, there are right when they were just putting together. Basically drone people. Under the desks? It's it's really exciting. Others, woman. I talk to.
She saw the devastation and the way that she thought of the health was to join the permanent office so that she can help people with the paperwork to get their homes built ass, fast ass. They could keep turning holding is gonna, be streamlining Germany, everybody. Understand that they want somebody to rebuild properly. We need that so it sounds like the local governments reaction to this devastating fire has actually been to accelerate building to get people back in their homes. And thus, a unique sentiment. I've actually covered multiple fires and the recovery process afterwards and that instead, to rebuild and rebuild quickly, is actually fairly common, but it's not just rebuilding its operator coming analysing opportunity, they scorch lots region found evidence to suggest that new home construction can actually outpace rebuilding effort.
After wildfire. Okay, so is is anything different happening when it comes to this new development, but we didn't have to wait too long to see that because almost immediately after the fire, there is developing call round barn village. So before this Lincoln Get started. The city council needs to decide to change the land use from commercial to residential, but it would put about two hundred. Thirty seven town homes in the hills, sort of adjacent to fountain, grove. So we actually want to check out the site where there are planning to build these homes and it's an open field with a parking lot in the middle of it, will stand under the shade of a birch tree. The women out there we met a city council, member named Julie, comes what we're looking at is trees that have black bark. They still have branches, but the branches
all Brown from being singed and scorched it is a really sort of eerie site. And she was saying this is a place in particular that she didn't feel comfortable letting people build, because she felt responsible for people we're not too far from the place where the fire jump. Six lanes of highway into access roads to burn down came on. So I have a lot of concerns about a residential project in this area. It always worries me to have people sleeping in a high fire hazard area So what happens in this? New development came up in front of the city council. So this was the moment that we'd sorted been looking forward to throughout. The reporting of this was the first big test of new development after the fire. So we went up there for
City Council meeting started for about nine thirty two got around to this question fifteen point two other carrying our village projects, do we heard from the developer they described all the fire safe technology. They were going to be using Scott Moon. The fire marshal from Santa Rosa made the case that the new building standards in I'll fire risk areas are so strong that play into the resiliency of our community. As we do move forward, we can safely build homes. Now, that's usually to the prevailing sentiment stuff, like fires as the materials, double pain, windows screens on your vents, but I'm not sure further. The building codes, what a saint homes in this particular fire about. Ninety four per the homes that were built in standards at the fire marshal was talking about still burned.
Our analysis found that there were two hundred sixty one harms. I had all these things in place all, but sixteen of them were destroyed or damaged. Despite that fact, the fire marshal them says, on new fire codes really seem to sway some of the city council members at that meeting and there were one city, council, member Julie, Combs, who we stood aground and said we are setting. Warren New House in a fire hazard area. When we vote today DES Moines, moment where the clerk lips on the voting in the lights pop up, and that was six green ones in one read one and that was it they approved. It and we're onto the next order. Business.
After the City Council vote an Julie Combs. She was the one against six what was her reaction? you still here we come up with her after the meeting you can write outside and with what she said she was thinking about was taken the big view. This is only the first new housing development, it's not the last we're going to see more development, more housing proposed for the fire hazard area and we just blinked. So then This group is going to say: will you let them go so Why are you sure letting us go? We're just witnessed how it happens. You just witnessed the process of we ve, given up the ability to prevent any kind of increased entity, a housing in a fire hazard area. We just gave it up and we ve, given it up until the next fire, so, as you said earlier, that homes are getting built in fire problem,
wilderness areas all over the country Santa Rosa there now putting even more houses there right after a major fire is the rest of the country doing the same thing as Santa Rosa I mean, generally speaking, I would say so in and we ve seen this in areas like Tennessee, Oklahoma, South Carolina. These are all places that have lost homes to fires over the past few years and knew how. These are being built, the rebuilding and places have burned before and its content possible that they're gonna burn again The other thing we know that fires actually increase in severity and frequency throughout the country, not just in the western states, so we I expect to see this story again and again and again That's reveals data reporter eggs, gharra patch minds. That story was produced by stand out: Corn Red Myers, It's a today show thanks to kick you he saw Hudson and Peter Acone for additional reporting on these stories Smithfield
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Transcript generated on 2019-12-20.