“Come on,” a voice calls out from inside the simple house in the middle of a cemetery in Paradise, California.
There he sits – the leader of Death in a small, burnt-out community above Butte Valley. Dave Grout looks weird when TV 2 asks the question: if they can show some graves from 2018? In that year his town was burned.
The great catastrophe that befell Paradise claimed the lives of many people. The flames were relentless. The fire that woke the city on the morning of November 8 claimed the lives of 85 people.
On Easter, TV Two will show the documentary about the deadliest and most destructive fires in California history.
Dave takes a seat in his electric golf cart and cycles between the hideout and into one of the newer areas. He turns off the automatic watering system so TV 2 can get close to the tomb’s pillars to film. Those with the number 2018 engraved.
– What kind of people came here in the days after the fire?
– torn. They all carried a story. They were just…, Dave says before the words get stuck.
The Cemetery Head in Heaven raises his hand apologetically as he struggles to hold back his tears. It’s still hard to think of the day that changed everything.
Over a long period of time, one of the hooks that firmly holds a transformer in a high-voltage mast has been subjected to wear and tear. When the wind was strong, the transformer rocked back and forth.
The iron hook slowly but surely wore out, until one day it broke. When the transformer hit the ground and tore a wire with it, sparks flew.
Under normal circumstances, it would have rained in California that fall. But it’s been a long time since anything has become normal. The state has been affected in recent years by drought during the rainy season.
In the fall of 2018, the situation was particularly bad. In few places is global climate change as evident as on the American West Coast. Forest fires are getting more widespread and more dangerous. It also makes them more deadly.
A rain of sparks made the meter-high grass dry. The wind caught flames and carried them at breakneck speed through the Butte Valley and up the hills.
Before the fire was discovered, it was already clear that it was too late to put it out. When the alarm went off, it was primarily a matter of notifying those in the most exposed areas.
While the people of Paradise were waking up and preparing for a new day, deadly flames were heading towards them. At first they smelled smoke.
Then the orange light came on, and with it they understood what they were about to experience.
Norwegian Terrell Sophie Mong woke up in the host house where she was staying. The 16-year-old, who was an exchange student at Paradise High School, thought the sunrise was beautiful, coloring the sky.
But it soon dawned on her and the others in the house that nothing pretty had ever happened to the hilltop town on that November morning. They took phones, bags and wallets and threw themselves into the car.
Tyrrell’s mother led the hostess to the main road and followed it down the hillside. Until they were caught in the queue. Everyone was now on their way out of town. Away from the sea of flames that was about to devour him.
Desperate people, coughing, crying, terrified. fugitive for life. away from death.
Another Norwegian was in heaven on the day of the disaster. Since the 1970s, the place has been the home of Olaf Johansen. In this paradise, he settled down with his Swedish wife, Jan, and had a daughter, Gina.
Widower Olaf had cancer, and was too weak to drive a car himself. Fortunately, he had a doctor’s appointment early on November 8th.
A municipal employee had already escorted him when the eviction order came. They also stood in line down the valley.
The flames kept getting closer. The roadblock caught fire along the way. Car cabins soared as firefighters’ helicopters dropped powder over the most threatened areas.
– Now the fires are much bigger, much stronger and last longer than before.
Peder Anker, a Norwegian historian, teaches at New York University. The subject area includes climate and the environment. Climate change is worrying.
However, he is keen to point out that it is not too late. Even if we don’t reach the targets set to reverse the trend, we must still do everything we can to save the planet we live on.
Zero emissions by the year 2000 was the goal that came in 1989 and we did not achieve it. Anker says we must now embark on a radical climate policy to make this happen.
– We have climate change. It would surprise me if we didn’t go over 2 degrees, so now we have to adjust to that. It requires appropriate political leadership.
He receives support from meteorologist Siri Kalvig. Today, the former TV 2 weather forecaster is managing director of green investment company Nysnø Klimainvesteringer.
Politicians should be able to make some unpopular choices, she says, and stresses that she believes the electricity crisis that has affected us for the past year and a half is making Norwegians more climate friendly.
– Just because it benefits the wallet.
But Calvig is also worried.
– For thirty years we have known that this is a big problem. But overcoming climate problems is difficult because we are fighting a threat that still awaits us.
Now experts are looking for solutions.
– We must limit consumption, says Anker.
Consume less energy and switch to a different type of food. Hence we have to be creative when it comes to energy development, he continues.
Calvig worries that we should be able to achieve what experts refer to as negative emissions. This can be done, among other things, by planting large areas with plants that absorb a high percentage of carbon dioxide.
– We can achieve carbon capture and storage, she explains, and talks passionately about developing giant fans and membranes that suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and store it in the ground.
– We can achieve it, but it will cost money and it is very difficult.
A new paradise
Norwegians Tyrrell Sophie Mong and Olaf Johansen escaped alive from the sea of flames in California on November 8, 2018.
Mong traveled to his native Norway. Johansen went to his daughter in San Diego, in the far south of the state. The doctors had given him two or three years to live. But losing everything was becoming an added stress. A few months after the Great Fire, the Norwegian died.
– Emotionally and mentally, the fire was too much for him, says his daughter, Gina.
Many of those who escaped the Great Fire never returned. But some decided not to give up. Chris Anderson has lived in Paradise his entire life. Now the carpenter is building a new house for himself.
– you feel good. I love what I do here. Now it comes to making it look nice and sweet for his wife, he smiles, and makes it clear that he doesn’t think Heaven will ever be struck by such a calamity again.
– I do not think so. This was a crazy fire and it didn’t happen more than once. Besides, there weren’t many trees left.
Maybe this is just wishful thinking. Because experts believe that the drought will only get worse in the coming years. At least until we succeed in reversing the trend, and that will take time.
death in heaven
– The hardest part was dealing with people’s grief, says El Speech director Dave Grout.
He himself chose to stay.
– I sat here and talked to people who were attending the funerals of their children or their parents, he says, wiping away a few tears.
– We who live here are like one big family. We shared each other’s grief.
Right behind us, a new grave is being dug. that’s life. One of the local fire ladder trucks is parked just outside the cemetery.
In the raised basket stands a man with a chainsaw. An old tree is being cut down because it stands too close to power lines.
– This will never be paradise again, Dave says of paradise.
– It will never be the same.
The documentary Heaven – The Vanished City is shown on TV 2 Nyheter on Maundy Thursday at 4pm, with repeats on Easter Eve at 1.30pm and Easter Sunday at 7pm. You can also watch the movie at tv 2 play.
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