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Paradise: Moving Forward By Audrey hettleman

Drawing unprecedented national attention, the Camp Fire caused many Americans, both near and far, to voice their opinions and provide aid to the disaster's victims. The tragedy drew support, but also criticism, from many around the country.

The fire was covered by most mainstream media networks, with channels such as CNN, MSNBC and Fox running multiple segments on the disaster.

Corte Madera Deputy Fire Chief Don Stasiowski believes that this coverage did include some bias, potentially impacting perspectives of viewers.

“When it comes to the media, it all depends on what channel you watch. Some networks and news stations may be presented with a more factual point of view than other news networks that don’t have their facts straight and are in it more for political reasons,” Stasiowski said.

The fires also drew the attention of President Donald Trump, who mentioned the disaster over eight times on his Twitter feed. These tweets included praise for the first responders, as well as criticism for California’s fire-prevention techniques.

Trump reiterated his views on forest management in a press conference in Paradise, which he mistakenly called “Pleasure” multiple times, with current governor Jerry Brown and governor-elect Gavin Newsom.

“We’ve gotta take care of the floors, you know, the floors of the forest. It’s very important,” Trump said at the conference. “I was with the president of Finland and he said, ‘We’re a forest nation.’ He called it a forest nation. And they spend a lot of time on raking and cleaning and doing things.”

President Donald Trump visited Chico and Paradise on Nov. 17 to view the damage caused by the fires. (Photo courtesy of the Mercury News)

Stasiowski says that Trump’s ideas seem a little far-fetched, and that he may not have all of the facts concerning forest-fire prevention. According to Stasiowski, the main cause of the Camp Fire was climate change, a fact consistently denied by Trump.

“He probably doesn’t have all the information that he needs. Raking the floor isn’t going to do anything,” Stasiowski said. “From our point of view, the problem is the changing climate. We have droughts, we have more heat, we have longer summers, longer dry periods, and that’s just getting worse.”

Stasiowski, like others in the fire management arena, is focusing on the future of flames in California; others that were more attached to this specific incident are still focused on the aftermath of the Camp Fire, which has left over 30,000 victims displaced according to CBS news.

Signs hang along fence lines throughout Chico and near the border of the town of Paradise, CA as a show of support for the fire's victims. (Photos by Lily Baldwin)

While donations of goods can help in the short term, Stasiowski said, donating money to a reputable organization is what victims need most right now.

“The biggest thing is probably for people that can afford to donate money to give to a reputable organization like the Red Cross, or the Salvation Army, or [other, more local organizations],” Stasiowski said. “People, they’re going to need clothes, they’re going to need all that stuff, yes, but a lot of that stuff is being collected and going there, and some of those people just need money to be able to find a place to live.”

Another group that is reaching out to help those affected by the fire are lawyers. Northern California Fire Lawyers is one of at least three firms, according to KRON4, that are filing lawsuits against PG&E.

According to the Northern California Fire Lawyers website, the firm filed two lawsuits. The first is the Butte Camp Fire Lawsuit, which is on behalf of victims who lost their homes or were otherwise hindered by the fire, and the second is the Butte Camp Fire Wrongful Death Lawsuit, which is on behalf of those who lost loved ones in the fire.

Mike Danko, a lead attorney in these cases, blames the complications the fire caused on negligence by PG&E, and hopes that the lawsuits will help the victims recover.

“Northern California families and communities deserve so much better than this,” Danko said, as quoted on the firm’s website. “PG&E’s continued and repeated disregard for safety, and its inability to adequately maintain its equipment cannot be tolerated. Camp Fire victims have suffered unnecessarily, and they deserve justice.”

In the event of a fire or other natural disaster in the Bay Area, Stasiowski says that having an evacuation and communication plan are most important to ensure future safety.

“Be safe, get a plan at home so everybody knows what they’re going to do, because it may not just be a fire; it could be an earthquake, it could be a flood,” Stasiowski said. “Have your evacuation plan [and a communications plan] with everybody and practice it, and have your “go-bag” so that you can leave quickly if you need to.”

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