[Butte County] Paradise narrowed evacuation route ahead of fires despite warnings

Evacuation brochures encouraged residents to ‘shelter in place’

Blog note: this article is one of many in and outside the state citing a 2008 Butte County grand jury report that called for wider evacuation routes. We posted one earlier. 

Despite a grand jury report calling for wider evacuation routes, Paradise town leaders did the opposite and reduced travel lanes on a key evacuation route.

A Butte County Fire Safe Council brochure explaining evacuation routes also recommended people living along those routes to "shelter in place."

In 2008, a wildfire near Paradise destroyed hundreds of homes and caught thousands of residents in snarled traffic trying to evacuate.

A grand jury report following the fire recommended improving evacuation routes so it wouldn't take people fleeing a fire three hours to get out of harm's way.

Around the same time the grand jury report was issued, the council members in the town of Paradise began studying renovations to Skyway Road and began considering traffic calming methods. Consultants even acknowledged it would impact the use of Skyway as an evacuation route.

In 2014, the town removed one lane of traffic in each direction, added parking and bike lanes, as well as curbs which jut out at intersections.

The Butte County Fire Safe Council created a brochure to explain how drivers could use center turning lanes in emergencies. The brochure stated "Residents who live along a one-way evacuation route that is being used are encouraged to shelter in place at your home."

People fleeing the fire on various evacuation routes described being stuck in gridlock.

The mayor of Paradise, who was vice-mayor at the time the decision was made to reduce lanes on Skyway Road, did not respond to questions from KCRA.

November 22, 2018

KCRA 3 Sacramento

By Kevin Oliver