Many people have not been heard from since the fire
Among the missing in Paradise are many older residents of the Ridgewood Mobile Home Park, a close-knit retirement community of 97 pastel-colored homes, where residents were so tightly bound that they ate together, took walks together and often prayed together, bowing their heads at the mailbox, or in the middle of the street, when they heard of another’s misfortune. Just 20 or so of those people have been accounted for by the park’s owner, Glen Fuller.
Ridgewood was flattened by the fire, a remarkable feat of destruction even for a blaze defined by its speed and brutality. Because the fire came from the east — the park sits east of downtown — it is likely that the people of Ridgewood were among the first to be hit by the flames. Compounding the danger, many of the residents were older, making a hasty escape difficult.
This means that those who have made it out — chased by the sound of exploding propane tanks — have been left to wait for news of the people they cared for most.
“It’s awful — it’s just awful,” said Sheila Schriber Cox, 64, a retired family counselor who fled with her dog Daisy, leaving behind her walker, her oxygen tank and a stack of Bibles she’d meant to distribute.
[Read more about Ridgewood residents’ anxious wait for news.]
Scenes that are reminiscent of a war zone
A line of burned-out cars on the side of a road. The charred remains of an old pickup truck, brightened by a pristine American flag draped over the cab. Desperate residents fleeing, cars packed with people and family heirlooms, anything that could be frantically scooped up.
One after another, the images could be from any number of conflict zones. But this is California.
As the state once again battles devastating wildfires north and south, at every point in the panorama of disaster underway there is a semblance of war — the scenes, the scents, the sounds, the emotions, and even the language of firefighting, of “aerial assaults” and “boots on the ground.”