As Scary as it Is, That’s Our Job’: Prepping Journalists for California’s Next Wildfire
Lizzie Johnson, a reporter with the San Francisco Chronicle, drove into Paradise, California, early in the afternoon of November 8. The Camp Fire had spread to the area a few hours earlier. At the southwest edge of town, where the main road to Paradise turns into a four-lane road, she encountered a police officer manning a roadblock at that spot.
“He told me, ‘This is an evacuation area. If you go back there, it’s not our responsibility to save you,’” Johnson says.
California law doesn’t allow authorities to keep journalists out of disaster areas, so all the officer could do was warn her. Johnson drove on, over skittering power lines and past trees smoking from their roots. The sky was red, and the smoke was so thick her headlights didn’t do much good. It was, she, says, “otherworldly… like driving into the apocalypse.”
Johnson had doubted the early reports of the fire’s devastation.