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A Memory of Paradise, California

Prior to moving to Clinton, Iowa, to teach college, I taught at California State University at Chico, a few miles from Paradise, California, recently burned out of existence by the “Camp Fire,” the most devastating fire in California history.

I vividly recall a Sociology Department social gathering put on by our chairman, Dr. Al Jensen, at his home at 1871 Conifer Drive in Paradise. Other faculty at CSU-Chico who attended also lived in that community.

I find it painful to contemplate what fate may have befallen them. To date, not everyone has been accounted for. 1871 Conifer Drive and the homes of the others are ash. Now at issue is whether they survived. I hope in the near future the Butte County Sheriff’s Department and other officials involved can soon provide definitive information for their families.

In the four summers 1962-1965, that spanned the years of my undergraduate degree at the University of California at Berkeley, I was a firefighter with the California Division of Forestry (now Cal Fire) working out of the Forest Ranch Station close to Paradise.

The fires we fought in and around Paradise at that time we efficiently contained, sometimes with air support. The emphasis throughout the CDF was to save as much forest as possible. Unfortunately, this practice led to a buildup of fuel that proved disastrous.

New forestry management practices must be implemented as we grieve lives lost.

Gary Heath


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