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Prepared Paradise: Town leveled by 2018 Camp Fire tests out new alert system

Town leveled by 2018 Camp Fire tests out new alert system
Town leveled by 2018 Camp Fire tests out new alert system 02:18

PARADISE – The Camp Fire is often considered to be one of the most destructive fires in California, which nearly destroyed the town of Paradise.

As the town rebuilds from its 2018 devastation, it is also learning from the past.

What would happen if another catastrophe hit again?

"We feel really called to do this work, especially after the Camp Fire," said Colette Curtis, a recovery and economic development director for the town.

Emergency officials in a multi-agency task force have often asked themselves that question.

Now, they are testing their plan.

The town conducted what it calls, 'Prepared Paradise.' It is a step-by-step plan of how to alert people through a new siren tower system while also doing a mock evacuation with scenarios involving road closures.

"I could just barely hear it over the TV. So, I turned the TV down to see what it was like and it's a weak siren," Erich Schmid said.

Out of the 21 siren towers needed for the system, five are currently built.

The town is still adjusting its notification plan, according to Curtis.

As the town builds out its siren tower system, it plans to test it every month.

It is currently looking for feedback to see how it can better improve its system.

Yet, it is an idea being embraced by neighbors who remember escaping what is considered the most destructive fire in state history.

It killed 85 people.

Not everyone was told to evacuate after flames burned the cell towers.

Some left by word-of-mouth or through listening to scanners.

"Within a couple of hours, she says they've lost control we need to evacuate," said Julie Reyna, a Magalia resident as she recalled what her mother shared after listening to emergency channels.

The siren towers are fire-resistant and satellite-capable.  There are also hardwired underground, but can default to battery and solar power for backup.

Could the groundwork the town is laying down be a blueprint for the rest of California?

The town says, yes.

"You can implement some of these things and be safer. So, we want to be that example," Curtis said. "We want to be able share what we've learned with others as much as we can."

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