Paradise Begins Testing Warning Sirens 5 Years After The Camp Fire

PARADISE, Calif. (AP) — California residents driven from their homes by one of the deadliest wildfires in recent history had one request before they would rebuild in the town of Paradise: warning sirens to bolster town emergency systems that failed some people before the fast moving inferno that killed 85 people in 2018. Town officials started testing the new sirens this summer after installation began in spring and as the five-year anniversary of the wildfire that wiped out much of the community approaches this November. There will eventually be 21 sirens erected throughout town that will emit one minute of loud, Hi-Lo warning sounds followed by evacuation instructions. Tests of the sirens began in July and are run on the first Saturday of every month. Twelve sirens were ready for testing in early August, at locations ranging from Town Hall to police headquarters to remote intersections. The town’s protocol says the sirens and messaging will sound for 10 minutes, followed by intervals of five minutes of silence and five minutes of warnings “until the emergency has subsided.” Officials in Hawaii failed to activate sirens last week. As in Paradise, some people tried to flee Lahaina but perished in their cars after getting stuck in traffic gridlock. As part of rebuilding Paradise, crews have removed thousands of trees, cleared defensible space around homes to slow down fires, buried power cables underground, and widened evacuation routes to handle more traffic. The California Office of Emergency Services in 2019 issued alert and warning guidelines for counties. It warns sirens can have limited effectiveness because people inside well-insulated homes and buildings may not hear them well.