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BC-US--California Wildfires-Destined to Burn, ADVISORY, US

April 3, 2019

Dear AP Customer:

In late 2018, after the Camp Fire in Paradise, California, killed 85 people, journalists from Gannett, McClatchy, Media News and the Associated Press came together to brainstorm how to tell the story of wildfires: If California is destined to burn, how can we have a sophisticated conversation about how to mitigate the impact?

The AP is distributing the ensuing project in two parts. The first installment will be available April 8 on an embargoed basis, for release online April 11. The second will move several weeks later. Members of the collaboration will run the stories on the front page on Sunday, April 13, and we hope newspapers throughout California will do the same.

Our goal with this collaboration is to put a spotlight on policy issues that can and should be raised in the halls of the Capitol and by local communities that set defensible space standards and evacuation routes.

We hope you read and share these powerful, revelatory stories as we look to change the trajectory of wildfires’ impact

_ A Chico Enterprise-Record, Paradise Post, Redding Record Searchlight, Ventura County Star, Sacramento Bee and Associated Press collaboration.


The story, sidebars and photos will move in advance, under embargo for online use at 3:01 a.m. Thursday, April 11. They are for use in weekend print editions.



California enacted strict building codes in 2008 for homes built in wildfire prone communities. The evidence from Paradise suggests the code works: About 51 percent of the 350 single-family homes built after 2008 in the path of the Camp Fire were undamaged, according to a McClatchy analysis of Cal Fire data and Butte County property records. By contrast, only 18 percent of the 12,100 homes built prior to 2008 escaped damage. But here’s the catch: Experts say there are hundreds of thousands of homes built before 2008 lying in the path of California’s next big wildfire, their wood-shake shingles waiting to ignite. By Dale Kasler and Phillip Reese, The Sacramento Bee, and Steve Schoonover, The Chico Enterprise-Record. 3,300 words, photos. With data distribution (see below).


Impoverished towns in the shadow of Mount Shasta. Rustic Gold Rush cities in the Sierra Nevada foothills. High-dollar resort communities around Lake Tahoe. Some of Los Angeles County’s ritziest suburbs. They all could be the next Paradise. A McClatchy analysis reveals that more than 350,000 Californians live in towns and cities that exist almost entirely within “very high fire hazard severity zones” — Cal Fire’s designation for places highly vulnerable to devastating wildfires. These designations have proven eerily predictive about some of the state’s most destructive wildfires in recent years, including the Camp Fire, the worst in state history. By Ryan Sabalow, Phillip Reese and Dale Kasler, The Sacramento Bee. 4,100 words, photos.


California’s landscapes evolved in concert with fire, and our efforts to keep the flames out have actually increased the danger. In a growing recognition of that, California has set ambitious plans to treat hundreds of thousands of acres with techniques that mimic the beneficial effects of fire. However those goals will be difficult to achieve due to the state’s regulatory barriers and a shortage of facilities and trained workers. By Steve Schoonover, The Chico Enterprise-Record. 900 words, photos.


If there’s one consistent thread in California’s history, it’s that we often ignore the profound risks that come with living in this big beautiful state — the earthquakes, the mudslides, the wildfires, the floods, the droughts, and, yes, even the volcanoes. It’s been like that since our founding. By Ryan Sabalow, The Sacramento Bee. 1,400 words, photos.

DESTINED TO BURN-WHY WE DID IT _ The more information we can share about where and how we’re falling short, the quicker we can come together on potential solutions. 450 words.

DESTINED TO BURN-HOW WE DID IT _ An explanation of how we analyzed data to calculate how many Californians live in places facing a high wildfire risk. 575 words.


More than 2.7 million Californians live in areas deemed by state officials to be at very high hazard for wildfires, according to an analysis of census data and state fire maps. They live in more than 1.1 million housing units, about one in 12 of the state’s homes.

Nearly 180 California cities and unincorporated towns fall almost completely within very high hazard areas, the analysis found. These areas range from tiny communities with only a handful of residents to larger areas with tens of thousands of people.

The data analysis shows how much of each California city, town and unincorporated place falls within areas designated by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection as “very high fire hazard severity zones.”.

The data is embargoed for 3:01 a.m. Thursday, April 11, but can be used now for reporting localized stories.

If you are already enrolled in AP’s data.world platform for data distributions, go to your account for access. If your news organization is not yet licensed to access data distribution, please contact Ken Romano, kromano@ap.org for enrollment details. If you are enrolled but have trouble accessing the data, please log in to data.world and click on the red dot in the upper right hand corner to accept AP’s member invitation or contact


For questions about the collaboration, contact Anna Jo Bratton, West Deputy Director of Newsgathering for The Associated Press, abratton@ap.org. For questions about the data, AP Data Reporter Angeliki Kastanis at akastanis@ap.org or Sac Bee Data Reporter Phillip Reese at preese@sacbee.com.