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Looking Back at the Humboldt Fire

What we've learned as rural residents and emergency public safety officials after the massive wildfire that tore through Paradise and surrounding areas ten years ago.

Posted: May. 9, 2018 7:22 AM
Updated: May. 10, 2018 6:12 AM

Butte County, Calif.-- "It was coming down this canyon, sounded just like a freight train" said Butte Valley resident Mike Boggs.

"My daughter and I were sitting and watching the smoke when it shifted over the top of the ridge and just marched straight down the mountain." said his wife Christie Boggs.

It was ten years ago - and yet the Mike and Christie Boggs will never forget the day the Humboldt Fire came bearing down the ridge toward their Butte Valley home.

They got to work, and fast.

"I used my John Deer and started pushing fire lines around some houses around here," said Mike. "I would run with my four-wheeler and make sure nothing was burning, from house to house to house."

"It took us 3 rigs and 2 hours to get horses, sheep and llamas out, they were crazy because of the fire and our anxiety didn't help either," said Christie.

Boggs' tractor gave out, but help came just in time.

"CDF strike team came rolling in a the right time and starting lighting back fires around everything," said Boggs.

The Fire started out on June 10th, 2008.

It burned southwest of Paradise and, and after day 1, some thought the worst was over. Then on day 2, the winds changed.

"We watched it from that point over there, run up the hill, get on the flat, cross Skyway and in a matter of minutes it spotted on Nance Canyon and there was a big cloud of smoke and it was a totally different fire," said Jim Broshears, Emergency Operations Coordinator for the Butte Fire Safe Council.

As hundreds of residents were ordered to evacuate, panic ensued.

"There was no evacuation plan at all back then," said Mike Boggs.

"We should have staged those evacuations one zone at a time," said Broshears, who had retired as Fire Chief in the town of Paradise just 2 years earlier.

As the fire moved, it blocked one exit route after the next.

"When the fire finally spotted across Clark we were down to Pentz," said Broshears.

87 homes, wiped out. 10 people were hurt. But in the aftermath?

"A lot of learning experiences, and new changes that will improve our ability to evacuate should it happen again at that level," said Broshears.

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