Paradise

Lizzie Johnson

Fires have always been a part of life in CA, with the fearsome Santa Ana Winds signaling it’s arrival. As a kid it never seemed that bad, but now it is a different story…I went to a wedding in Nov. of 2018 as ash was falling from the sky due to the Woolsey fire. The sun was bright orange, the air smelled like a campfire. 2 years later, the Bobcat Fire would rip through the mountains just 30 minutes from my home. This time the ash fell relentlessly for two weeks. The plants on our patio choked and withered, ash covered my car. It was apocalyptic outside, with sun blocked by smoke. Every day when I looked out my window, my heart was heavy with dread. But I was fortunate, I was safe. Seeing the disaster so close was a constant reminder of the future. Wildfires are expected to increase sixfold in the coming years. How much longer can I live in CA? But where is it safe? I think about this a lot.

Lizzie Johnson gives the reader an in-depth look into that terrifying day for the townspeople of Paradise. We talk a lot about bearing witness and how important it is to know. Giving people affected by these natural disasters a voice on the larger stage is essential if we are to act with empathy. Of course I always had the most respect for firefighters and first responders during wildfire season, but that appreciation has only grown. More importantly, this is a heroic account of the townspeople who also fought against impossible odds to keep people alive and help them escape. The story of the teachers and the bus driver trying to get the kids to safety had me in tears. But most upsetting is that so much of the crisis could have been averted. Poor city planning and PG&E both take the fall, and it makes for a frustrating read.

I do think the book sputtered out a bit towards the end, as if Johnson didn’t quite know where to focus next. But you can most certainly write whole books about PG & E and poor city planning. Johnson clearly has talent, and I look forward to what she decides to write about next. #Paradise #NonFictionBooks #ClimateChange #wildfires #bookstagram

amari and the night brothers by b.b. alston
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