PARADISE, Calif. (AP) — Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday marked the third anniversary of California's deadliest and most destructive wildfire by announcing that nearly 100,000 damaged trees have been removed and debris cleaned up from some 11,000 properties.
The Camp Fire that erupted on Nov. 8, 2018, in the Sierra Nevada foothills killed 85 people, destroyed nearly 19,000 homes, businesses and other buildings and virtually razed the town of Paradise.
About 1,000 homes in the area northeast of San Francisco have been rebuilt and reconstruction continues on others, but entire blocks of Paradise remain little more than empty lots.
“As we hold the victims of this devastating fire and their families close in our hearts, we are inspired by the incredible resilience of the people of Butte County and their dedication to caring for one another on the road to recovery,” Newsom said in a statement. “Today marks an important milestone on that journey, and California will continue to stand with all the communities impacted by wildfire as they work to rebuild.”
“I know that there are people still out there struggling and we are doing everything we can to help them get back home,” Paradise Mayor Steve Crowder told Action News New on Monday. “Please keep the faith."
State and local crews working since early 2019 have removed more than 97,200 fire-damaged trees that threatened public roads in a 240-square-mile (621.6-square-kilometer) area, authorities said.
A report released last year determined that the Camp Fire was caused by the failure of a worn and neglected piece of Pacific Gas & Electric equipment on a transmission tower. The company filed for bankruptcy in 2019 and pleaded guilty to 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter involving victims of the fire.
It also faces numerous criminal charges for fires caused by its fraying equipment, including four charges of manslaughter filed in September by Shasta County prosecutors.
“We will never forget the Camp Fire tragedy,” PG&E said in a statement. “We are committed to understanding and applying the lessons learned from this and other devastating wildfires, and dedicated to making our system safer.”
The Camp Fire remains the deadliest wildfire in recorded state history but it was followed in recent years by a number of devastating blazes, including several this year in the Sierra Nevada and other areas of Northern California that set records for size, destroyed hundreds of homes, and burned hundreds of California's iconic giant sequoias.
The wildfires, in large part, have been fueled by high temperatures, strong winds and dry weather. Climate change has made the U.S. West warmer and drier in the past 30 years and will continue to make the weather more extreme and wildfires more destructive, according to scientists.