Paradise Lost: Camp and Woolsey Fires Claim 50 Lives and an Entire Town

“Boys, this is paradise,” William Pierce Leonard reportedly proclaimed in 1864, exhaling as he took in the beauty around him. It’s one of the many legends of how the town of Paradise, nestled in the Sierra Nevada foothills, first got its name. Today, it might as well be known as Paradise Lost.

The town was completely leveled over the weekend by the monstrous Camp Fire, which began Nov. 8 in rural Butte County near Pulga. Paradise Mayor Jody Jones estimates that as much as 90% of her city’s homes have been destroyed.

The fire, which has burned 130,000 acres and was 35% contained as of Tuesday night, has also claimed at least 48 lives. That makes it the deadliest and most destructive fire in California’s history.

Meanwhile, as Butte County was under siege, parts of Southern California were battling a massive blaze of their own. The Woolsey Fire began just east of Simi Valley on Nov. 8 and quickly began spreading to the surrounding areas of Agoura Hills, Calabasas, Thousand Oaks, West Hills, and Malibu. Tragically, many of these same communities were already reeling from a mass shooting in Thousand Oaks that occurred less than 24 hours earlier. The massacre claimed 12 lives, including that of a Ventura County sheriff’s sergeant.

By Tuesday night, the Woolsey Fire had scorched 97,114 acres in Ventura and Los Angeles counties, destroyed an estimated 435 structures, and claimed two lives. Much of the affluent, coastal town of Malibu has been destroyed.

Among those who lost homes is Malibu Mayor Pro Tem Jefferson “Zuma Jay” Wagner. Worse, CBS LA reports that Wagner was admitted to the intensive care unit of a local hospital after sustaining injuries related to the fire. He is now recuperating, according to a city spokesman.

How you can help

Southern California Grantmakers and CBS San Francisco have a list of organizations accepting donations for victims of the Woolsey, Hill, and Camp Fires. Find out how you can help.

You can also follow the latest updates on the Camp and Woolsey Fires here