By James Rainey LOS ANGELES — Belated warnings from public officials and the reluctance of residents who had survived previous fires to leave home were among the factors that contributed to the delayed and chaotic evacuation in what has become the deadliest wildfire in California history, survivors said. Some of those who escaped from the massive Camp Fire last week questioned why Butte County leaders did not do more to warn residents of Paradise and neighboring mountain communities as a fire whipped with fearsome speed through the mountainous region north of Sacramento. Most of the attention following the wildfire has focused on the search for dozens of people still missing and the possibility that power equipment belonging to the electric utility PG&E may have sparked the fire. But a few residents have begun to ask why notice did not get out to more people about the fire, which has killed 48 and destroyed an estimated 7,600 single-family homes, both records for California. We were trying to move tens of thousands of people out of an area very rapidly with the fire coming very rapidly. And no matter what your plan is to do that, no plan will ever work 100 percent when you are dealing with that much chaos.” “They definitely didn’t do enough,” said Christina Taft, whose 67-year-old mother has been missing since the fire. “She didn’t expect it to be that bad. She expected someone would be calling, or something, if it got bad. But they didn’t.” “They were negligent. They just let them go,” said Taft, who has had no word from her mother, Victoria, since last Thursday. “There is a reason all these people are dead.” A resident of Magalia, about 8 miles west of the fire’s starting point, confronted Butte County Sheriff Kory L. Honea and other officials Monday about why he and his neighbors could not find any information about the dangerous blaze, a full three hours after fire crews first responded to the ignition point, near Highway 70 in Plumas National Forest.
“We use the emergency broadcast system for a tornado warning. But this is a deadly fire,” said the man, who was not identified by county officials whom he addressed at the meeting in Oroville. “I don’t remember any alert coming over my radio…. People in the community are freaking out, you need to get some information up here.”
The Butte County sheriff’s office said it did deliver notifications about the fire danger: 5,227 by email, 25,643 via phone (to both land lines and cellular devices) and 5,445 by text message. “I wish we had the opportunity to get more alerts out, more of a warning out, but unfortunately we didn’t,”