scue crews picking through what's left after the deadliest wildfire in California history turned the town of Paradise into a smoldering ruin. More than 60 people are dead across the state, over 600 are missing, and nearly 12,000 homes and buildings are burned. Many are wondering if this town of 27,000 could have been more prepared.
But Reuters correspondent Andrew Hay learned that officials here believed the town was ready.>> Paradise, California had a model wildfire evacuation plan. They'd suffered a wildfire in 2008 and it was chaos. Everybody tried to leave at once, 27,000 residents trying to leave at once. And they said, never again.
We gotta be ready for the next one. So they widened roads. They created a new exit route, so they had four exit routes. They split the town up into evacuation zones so they could stagger an evacuation zone by zone. They had in place an alert system that they had introduced called CodeRED, where residents signed up to get wildfire notifications by text, landline, and email.
>> But the so-called Camp Fire moved quicker and more ferociously than anything the town had expected. By the time it struck Paradise on November 8, it was burning through the equivalent of a football field a second.>> Talking to the head of the Paradise emergency management team, an early conclusion he got was that evacuation is not always the best idea.
With a fast moving fire like this, sometimes just staying in place in a big, wide open place that doesn't burn, like a road intersection, is safer than getting in your car and trying to leave. Another take-away is that maybe old fashioned sirens that might freak out the whole town and cause panic are better than a system like CodeRed, which in the case of Paradise, is a voluntary system.
You have to sign up for it. At most, only half of the town signed up for it. Then when the fire hit, it started burning mobile towers. It knocked down electricity lines. Everybody was on the phone calling their friends and their neighbors. That jammed the phone networks. And speaking to OnSolve, the company that operates CodeRED, they said their data showed only 60% of the alerts went through.
So 60% of half the town, that's at best, three out of ten residents ever got any official warning.>> Many of those still missing are over the age of 65. Realtors long sold Paradise as an ideal place to retire. As of Friday, the blaze was 45% contained, and weather conditions were beginning to help the firefighting effort.