'FRONTLINE: Fire in Paradise'
(DVD / PG-13 / 2020 / PBS)
Overview: A year after the devastating Camp Fire, who's to blame and why was it so catastrophic?
DVD Verdict: The Camp Fire was the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history and the most expensive natural disaster in the world in 2018 in terms of insured losses.
Named after Camp Creek Road, its place of origin, the fire started on November 8th, 2018, in Northern California's Butte County. Ignited by a faulty electric transmission line, the fire originated above several communities and an east wind drove the fire downhill through developed areas.
After exhibiting extreme fire spread, fireline intensity, and spotting behaviors through the rural community of Concow, an urban firestorm formed in the foothill town of Paradise.
With the arrival of the first winter rainstorm of the season, the fire reached 100 percent containment after seventeen days on November 25th, 2018.
The fire caused at least 85 civilian fatalities, with one person still missing, and injured 12 civilians, two prison inmate firefighters, and three other firefighters.
It covered an area of 153,336 acres (62,053 ha) (almost 240 sq. miles), and destroyed 18,804 structures, with most of the damage occurring within the first four hours.
The towns of Paradise and Concow were almost completely destroyed, each losing about 95% of structures in town. The town of Magalia also suffered damage, with roughly half of the structures in town destroyed.
By January 2019, the total damage was estimated at $16.5 billion; one-quarter of the damage, $4 billion, was not insured; disproportionately represented by exceptionally low cost uninsured residences versus high cost insured commercial structures.
The same month, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), the utility company responsible for the faulty power line, filed for bankruptcy, citing expected wildfire liabilities of $30 billion.
To prevent bankruptcy, on December 7th, 2019, the utility made a settlement offer for $13.6 billion; the offer covered the four devastating fires caused by the utility, including the Camp Fire.
Drought was a factor: Paradise, which typically received five inches of autumn rain by November 12th, got only one-seventh of an inch. The drought was possibly intensified by climate change.
As this brand new documentary from PBS informs us, the Camp Fire is the deadliest wildfire in the United States since the Cloquet fire in 1918, and is high on the list of the world's deadliest wildfires; it is also the sixth-deadliest U.S. wildfire overall.
With accounts from survivors and first responders, the inside story of the most destructive fire in California history, its causes and the impact of climate change are revealed here within the quite mesmerizing 'FRONTLINE: Fire in Paradise.' This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.