Google Earth updates Paradise imagery post #Campfire – the images are shocking

I knew it would be coming, and it has arrived.

First, a reminder image of that fateful day.

Image from Landsat 8, November 8th, 2018, approximately 10:30AM

Google Earth Pro (free app) has updated the aerial imagery for Paradise, CA to show the results after the devastating Campfire of November 8th, 2018. The new satellite imagery is dated December 11th, 2018 just over a month later. Here are before and after images showing a section of the town on Clark Road, where the Safeway shopping center was. You can see that shopping complex in the lower left of the comparison photo.

Paradise, CA showing Safeway shopping center before and after the #CampFire July 2nd, 2017 -vs- December 11th, 2018. Images from Google Earth Pro. Click to enlarge.

Here is another comparison view, showing the Feather River Hospital complex on Pentz road, and the Feather River Canyon, where the fire roared through that fateful morning.

Paradise, CA Feather River Hospital before and after the #CampFire July 2nd, 2017 -vs- December 11th, 2018. Images from Google Earth Pro. Click to enlarge.

The difference in the before and after is striking due to the lack of vegetation. Even in the winter, there would be a lot of green showing as the area is prominently covered in evergreen trees. Feather River Hospital remains closed today.

Finally, downtown Paradise, showing the corner of Skyway and Pearson Road in the lower left, near where the fateful traffic bottleneck occurred, due to what I considered incompetent city planning to “calm” traffic at the expense of a fast escape route.

Paradise, CA downtown showing the corner of Skyway and Pearson Rd. before and after the #CampFire July 2nd, 2017 -vs- December 11th, 2018. Images from Google Earth Pro. Click to enlarge.

As of this writing, these images have not yet appeared in the webpage version of Google Maps with the satellite view enabled, they are only available in the desktop version, though I have not investigated the Phone App version.

You can download Google Earth Pro for free here.

Also, a hat-tip to Jeff Greeson, of the Butte County District Attorney’s office, who alerted me to this updated imagery. Here’s a video he did with his own narrative.



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January 20, 2019 4:55 pm

As horrible as the fire was the Earth will repair itself rather quickly so long as the California bureaucracy stays away. It will be interesting to see these pictures every six months.

HD Hoese
January 20, 2019 5:07 pm

Google Earth did the same thing with Harvey, very useful. Why do so many, including commercial, keep building in harms way? Is it boilerplate facilites from top management? Government bailouts?

Reply to  HD Hoese
January 20, 2019 7:38 pm

There is very little of the Earth’s surface that isn’t in harm’s way of something.

Reply to  MarkW
January 22, 2019 3:22 am

True, but I still wouldn’t build a wooden house in a box canyon with only one way out, in an area with a history of extended droughts, and leave a lot of flammable material right up to my walls.

James Beaver
Reply to  HD Hoese
January 21, 2019 8:01 am

Rebuilding in those areas should be done with concrete and steel, with ceramic roofing and small windows. Plus, underground fire-storm bunkers with self-contained air supplies.

The only rational response to these incidents is massively revised building codes.

Reply to  James Beaver
January 29, 2019 3:14 am

“Massively”? You mean thoroughly, right? Appropriately, suitably, substantially, but I doubt the thing actually masses much.

Reply to  Ten
January 29, 2019 11:01 am

You have clearly never gone through a set of building codes, it is a pile of paper weighing several hundred pounds even in places outside Cali. I imagine it would be closer to a ton anywhere in Cali.

Reply to  HD Hoese
January 21, 2019 4:37 pm

Need to go to Paradise, then go to Bob’s house (southeast of pond/park area) and ask him why his house didn’t burn; then enact the “Bob construction practices & maintenance” ordinance.

January 20, 2019 5:14 pm

Firestorms will eventually reduce fuel loads whenever public authorities fail in their duty to do so. California is subject to this iron rule, no differently from Victoria or New South Wales in Australia.

Steve O
Reply to  Stefan
January 21, 2019 4:08 am

“Firestorms will eventually reduce fuel loads whenever public authorities fail in their duty to do so.”

That’s about as simple as you can put it. A “Never Burn/Never Log/Never Clear” policy is a physical impossibility.

Reply to  Steve O
January 21, 2019 9:45 am

“Never Burn/Never Log/Never Clear” = BURN

Reply to  Stefan
January 21, 2019 4:20 am

and if they keep NOT burning off near towns in rural areas…we will see many more soon downunder.
notes in letterboxes about local town fringe burnoffs this year
what happened?
its been around 20yrs since a fire in my area
meanwhile phalaris and prickly acacia abound all over roadsides.
both burn fast and hard and green growth on acacias goes up like the old name for it
kerosine bush.
yes you can run firebreaks round properties but that wont stop embers

January 20, 2019 5:19 pm

It’s curious how some buildings in the path of the fire escaped virtually unscathed, while ones just a short distance away were demolished. See, for example, the small office park at 6161 Clark Rd, just north of the Safeway. Different building materials, pro-active fire suppression, or dumb luck?

nw sage
Reply to  stinkerp
January 20, 2019 6:01 pm

I have heard others describe a church with a large well manicured and watered lawn that survived intact. Perhaps the availability of large amounts of dry fuel very near the structure has a lot to do with the survival of a building.

Reply to  nw sage
January 21, 2019 8:15 am

What I don’t get is the houses burned but not the trees. Also, the pictures look darker due to the time of day. Long shadows in second picture. Seems to me many would have been fine if more home owners had stayed and put out ground fires since trees didn’t burn.

Judy Cross
Reply to  ironargonaut
January 21, 2019 11:13 am

Obviously, it was not a “forest fire”, because the houses and the cars were torched, but the trees are still green. Not natural at all. Look up “California Fires – Citizen Investigator Latest Video”

Johann Wundersamer
Reply to  nw sage
January 21, 2019 8:56 am

ironarg, but home owners and residents had to get evacuated.

Reply to  stinkerp
January 20, 2019 6:09 pm

My thought exactly. Many structures appearing little damaged among utter devastation.

Reply to  Anthony Watts
January 20, 2019 7:08 pm

That appears to be how the hospital burned

comment image

Pillage Idiot
Reply to  Anthony Watts
January 21, 2019 7:56 am

I suspect the flat roofs accumulated tinder. If the flat roofs had a facade or raised rim, they would accumulate years of needles in a dry, fluffy pile. These would preferentially occur in the wind lee areas of the roof – right where the embers would have landed.

Gutters could also create the same hazard on pitched roofs. Either spot is more likely to be adjacent to some water-damaged, spongy wood that is far easier to ignite.

I have seen plenty of homes in Colorado survive forest fires that swept right past them. I hope the CA residents get some good fire investigators that provide lessons to minimize the damage from the next blaze.

Reply to  stinkerp
January 20, 2019 7:16 pm

That’s amazing that building didn’t burn. 4 houses right next to it did. I would have thought radiant heat would have set it on fire. I wonder if it’s concrete, stucco or cinder block construction.

Kim Keen
Reply to  icisil
January 26, 2019 10:25 pm

A lot of stucco made it. There was a huge wind storm that day. And I live in the middle of the destruction.
The only work I keep saying over and over is strange… strange that the whole neighborhoods are gone with just one house standing. A lot of the trees are filled with fluid so that makes sense why the trees made it but MANY trees didn’t. It happened so fast we are all in disbelief.

Bill Parsons
Reply to  stinkerp
January 20, 2019 8:10 pm

It also appeared to be surrounded with asphalt – no trees. It’s unfortunate to contemplate forest homes without their forests, but… hopefully they do a tough-minded analysis of what survived and why, learn from the mistakes and implement smart planning before they begin to rebuild. Among other things, maybe homeowners in fire-prone areas will have to pay much higher insurance rates. It’s asking for trouble to run power lines through fire-prone forests with Santa Ana winds perennially blasting through them. Since utilities (lately) seem to be bearing the responsibility for hundreds of these fires, I’d imagine they may soon simply refuse to power such homes. What if they required them to run on stand-alone solar? Alternatively… surround your house with parking-lot sized blacktop.

Up through 2010, Californians built more than two million homes in the most fire-prone regions of the state. At least 1.6 million more are expected to go up in the next 30 years in areas the state designates as “very high fire risk.”

California Burns for Better Leaders
Perverse housing incentives block urban high rises and set the woods on fire.

(WSJ editorial by Holman Jenkins)

John F. Hultquist
Reply to  Bill Parsons
January 20, 2019 8:33 pm

Bill P.,
hopefully they do a tough-minded analysis of what survived and why,

Yes, this will be done, right to the top foot of the soil, to the plastic handles on garden equipment, and much more. Perhaps in 6 months there will be a detailed report.
You will have to look for such things. Six months from now most media will be on to a different topic.

Regarding learning, look up “fire_wise” and “fire adapted communities.”

Bill Parsons
Reply to  John F. Hultquist
January 21, 2019 3:10 pm

I looked at some of these links. They seem a bit short on specifics on first pass. But I took away something that I agree with: adapting only your own home is short sighted. Adaptions (creating “safe spaces”, for example) must be undertaken in collaboration with entire communities. Clearly, the problems of mitigating involve people’s attitudes… “It’s not going to happen here” (or) “It’s nature… if it happens it happens” (or) “It’s all too overwhelming, costly, work-intensive, pointless,” etc. (or) “Why should I do anything? My neighbors aren’t mitigating” Then there are the points of view of the politicians / developers / insurance companies / home builders / government bureaucrats, Greens / environmentalists … all of whose self interests conflict with common sense safety measures.

Reply to  stinkerp
January 20, 2019 9:06 pm

Stone, brick, better landscape logistics, old men with water hoses, shifting winds, God and/ or luck.

Reply to  stinkerp
January 20, 2019 11:11 pm

We stayed at a B&B outside Leavenworth, Washington which survived a wildfire go right over it. Tile roof (re: non-flammable, burning embers landing on it wont’ hurt it**); vegetation well-maintained, and away from the structure; hardscape next to the structure. The fire dept wanted to use pictures of it as an example of what to do right, so your home will have an increased chance of survival.

**in a wildfire, the most likely reason a home will burn is embers (which can originate quite a distance away.) landing on the roof and setting it on fire. One of the worst materials – which used to be *required* by HOA’s – are cedar shingles.

January 20, 2019 5:24 pm

Though many tall evergreens burned, many survived. The low chaparral, however, is all consumed. It seems that clearing the shrub around your house is good fire prevention.

Reply to  stinkerp
January 20, 2019 9:26 pm

California has millions of conifers/evergreens.

Reply to  Poems of Our Climate
January 21, 2019 10:28 am

Good point, I’m sure. Uh, what is your point?

Pop Piasa
January 20, 2019 5:40 pm

So we need a catastrophe here in IL to get our Google maps picture updated from 2014?
(extreme sarcasm intended)

January 20, 2019 6:53 pm

You know those are summer vs winter images, right? Aside from the burned out buildings, you can’t really tell anything from those images.

Reply to  Mat
January 20, 2019 7:47 pm

I would estimate that the majority of those trees were conifers, and should be in full-green regalia about now. Additionally, the hills in California burst into green with the winter and spring rains. Driving through Malibu on the PCH in November, it was all brown and black. Now? I’d say 40% of it is green with grasses and plants springing right back.

Reply to  ShanghaiDan
January 20, 2019 8:25 pm

Currently all green on the hills east of the 880 on the Oakland and Fremont side of SF Bay area. It has rained nearly every day this month.

Reply to  ShanghaiDan
January 21, 2019 8:20 am

Can’t tell from satellite. Dark ground, evening sun make it look darker. Note long shadows from street poles.

Kaiser Derden
Reply to  Mat
January 20, 2019 7:52 pm

one word … evergreens … you haven’t spent too many “winters” in Cali I take it …

Reply to  Mat
January 21, 2019 9:06 am

There’s a mix of evergreens and deciduous trees in the above images. Seems about evenly split. From what I’ve read, Paradise has a lot of oaks as well as pines. Don’t mean to be rude, but IMO anyone who let’s evergreens grow anywhere near their building is dumber than dirt. I won’t allow even better-rooted deciduous trees to be within striking distance of my house, much less pines. My last snow storm took out about 5-10 trees, all pines.

Judy Cross
Reply to  icisil
January 21, 2019 11:20 am

Except, most trees didn’t burn around the houses and cars that did burn to ash.

Jim M
January 20, 2019 7:23 pm

Wow. I cannot imagine what that was like to live through. It would be interesting to see a local “lessons learned” when all of this is settled. Fire is one scary thing.

Reply to  Jim M
January 20, 2019 8:30 pm

Its California so don’t hold your breath. Global Warming is to blame and that is about as much thought of the cause as you will find.

January 20, 2019 7:56 pm

Juan Browne has produced a good series on the Camp Fire and destruction of Paradise on his YouTube channel Blancolirio. Browne is an airline pilot who lives near Paradise and has a light plane that he used to show aerial views of the place where the fire began, where it spread, and the destruction of Paradise. He included interviews with Paradise residents on their experiences with the fire and how they escaped, and an interview with a nurse who helped evacuate the hospital. He also gave a history of wildfires in the area, P.G.&E., the buildup of fuel, how the fire spread so quickly, and the difficulty people had in escaping after Paradise installed “traffic calming” measures to restrict traffic.

January 20, 2019 7:57 pm

See Juan Browne’s YouTube series on the Paradise fire.

John F. Hultquist
January 20, 2019 8:35 pm

Thanks Anthony.

Last fire up our way (central Washington State) went by just 2.6 miles to our north.

January 20, 2019 8:57 pm

Its interesting to see what vegetation has already sprouted in the area devastated by the volcano in Hawaii. Doesn’t take long

Reply to  Colin
January 21, 2019 1:12 pm

we have green grass growing over the mountains and hills.. bulbs sprouting and rose bushes sprouting green,,

January 20, 2019 9:07 pm

Meanwhile, in December, LA County approved a massive 19,000 unit housing development in an area prone to wildfires where the state says the area is “high” and “very high” fire hazard zone. What could go wrong with that and how soon would another fire be put down to climate change?

anna v
January 20, 2019 9:22 pm

Dear Anthony

Here is a poem I wrote after fleeing a fire in Greece back in the 1980’s . Unfortunately there were two big fires end of july last year, 100 kilometers apart, on the same day. Which resulted in 100 deaths in one of them , due to bad planning: in allocating resources, in municipal roads ,and in the evacuation in the second one.


Trees for years and years
dream in the sun
gathering and storing
golden light

Birds nest in their foliage
rodents root around their trunks
their shadow an oasis
for all live things

in the very hot and dry
days of July
a high killing wind
whips flames
inadvertently lit
into enormous firestorms

Life forms scramble out
as fast as they can,
plants await
their foreordained death.
All that light stored
released in crackle
and smoke
as the tree spirits rise
in an untimely sacrifice .

At night
the front
burns on the mountain
like a love letter
thrown in the fireplace,
now and then
enormous fireworks
shoot up
as pine trees die.

Ashes and coal cover everything
until spring,
when seedlings
feasting on the remains of their parents
tentatively thrust green shoots
into the light
renewing the cycle of green life.
(watch out for those goats that
eat anything)

Not to forget that pine forests reproduce themselves by fire

Reply to  anna v
January 21, 2019 10:29 pm


January 21, 2019 7:28 am

Damn, seeing all the burned structures definitely brings the message home. I worked firelines for MS Forestry in ’70s and again in mid ’80s, was rolled twice, and the difference between seeing forest/brush gone and seeing that many structures gone is quite stark. Hope y’all will be allowed to do the right thing in rebuilding that region.

Robert Bissett
January 21, 2019 8:46 am

Don’t hold your breath over the “lessons learned” from this fire. The lessons are well known and have been for a long time. The methods and materials for a virtually fireproof house are readily available. Riddle me this: Why don’t building codes require them? Why don’t developers use them? Why don’t consumers demand them? Why don’t insurance companies decline to cover wood frame structures…little more than bonfires waiting to happen? Money? Sales? Profit? Tradition? Inertia? Ignorance?

Reply to  Robert Bissett
January 21, 2019 5:07 pm

The “spanish colonists” who lived there long before whitey knew how to build structures that could survive such conditions, and the “locals” just did not build permanent structures in those regions. Hmmmmm, almost like they knew something!

January 22, 2019 5:59 am

The color filters don’t match. Check the color of the asphalt and the streams. Check out one of the white buildings that survived and just focus on that one building while flipping across the two images. The color patterns don’t tell us much. What really surprises me is how much remains standing.

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