Five years after California’s deadliest and most destructive wildfire destroyed Paradise, the town’s leaders have launched three dozen projects to fortify this Northern California community about 180 miles northeast of San Francisco against future disasters.
Here is a look at six of them:
- An emergency notification system. Twenty-one sirens atop steel towers, disguised as Douglas fir trees, emit one minute of loud “Hi-Lo” warning sounds followed by evacuation instructions. The system can be controlled manually, over the internet or by satellite. Power is hard-wired underground, but each siren also has a solar panel. Many have cameras.
- Widened evacuation routes. One of the major corridors, Pentz Road, is getting a $73 million widening, with a new two-way left turn lane and bike path, which can double as an evacuation route. Skyway, another artery, will be widened to increase its capacity.
- Underground utilities. So far, PG&E, Comcast and AT&T have jointly trenched more than 80 miles, reducing the risk of wildfire ignition, Public Safety Power Shutoffs, and boosting evacuation safety.
- Linked road segments. In a $200 million project, the town aims to connect three of the town’s longest dead-end roads, where people were trapped and died, to a major corridor.
- Toughened residential building codes. During the fire, homes that were built to tough “Wildland Urban Interface” standards were more likely to survive, so that’s the new code. To be extra safe, some homes have steel frames or insulated concrete.
- Fuel breaks. The town hopes to buy some properties on its eastern edge by the Feather River canyon to create buffer zones of low vegetation, which could also be used for hiking trails.