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Fire forces residents to leave Paradise

July 10, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
The hotels are empty and stores are shut down. It is a ghost town on the eastern edge of Paradise. Nearly 7,000 people have evacuated. Many left their sprinklers running to keep things moist in case the Butte lightning fires creep up in the canyon behind them.

Schoolteacher and coach Seth Roberts has defied mandatory evacuation orders. Eyewitness News found him gardening, making sure his corn is watered. Then he got down to more serious business: He made sprinklers for his roof. He hopes that will help against the fires that could come raging up the canyon just a few feet from his home.

"I don't want to leave the property," Roberts said. "I want to protect what we've got. I'm going to work around here. There's always a certain sense, when this happens, of people coming in who don't live in this neighborhood, and [to] protect against that."

Firefighters have gained some progress in the Butte lightning fires thanks to calmer winds. They have worked hard to keep the flames on one side of the canyon.

"Air drops" especially helped Thursday as planes poured water onto the fire from overhead. The method was suspended for most of Wednesday because of poor visibility from the heavy smoke. Thursday gave firefighters the opportunity to keep the fire to one side of the Feather River.

"If it comes across, it has the potential to come up the steep canyon in fingers and start burning through the community a little bit here," said Riverside City Fire Dept. Chief David Lesh.

That is the last thing Paradise needs, having already lost 74 homes in another fire in mid-June. Evacuating has become a lifestyle for Paradise residents. They have learned to have things already packed and the animals ready to go. Despite the multiple evacuations this summer, Seth Roberts refuses to give up on Paradise.

"Paradise is a great place," Roberts said. "I've lived here my whole life. I've been to a lot of places. I work here. I have friends here. I wouldn't move. It's a beautiful place."

 

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