And then it burned

Editor’s note: We publish these accounts from the Paradise evacuation to keep friends of Johnston, Clark, Redeker and Williams updated.

In December 2017, the Town Crier published an article about Pine Cove resident Jamie Johnston and her book “Following Breadcrumbs, Tales of a Rock and Roll Child.” Johnston’s book chronicled her own music career and how it interwove with many of the rock icons in what many will acknowledge as the best time in American pop music.

Johnston and partner Rick Clark, younger brother of Gene Clark of The Byrds, survived and understood the pop music business of the ’60s and ’70s — how time was fluid, much was ephemeral, much was changing and hope was always in the air.

In the spring of this year, they packed up and moved to Paradise in Northern California, in an area reminiscent of Pine Cove and Idyllwild. They liked Paradise, in the foothills of the Sierras just north of Sacramento.

Johnston read of the July fires in Idyllwild that nearly took the town out and said she felt such “survivor’s guilt.”

Now she is wondering if the house she and Clark bought is still standing. By most accounts, very little of Paradise survived.

The fire came quickly on Thursday, Nov. 8, early in the morning. Because of winds, dry conditions and low humidity, it spread quickly before most in town realized the need for evacuation.

In a phone interview Johnston recounted that she and Clark had time only to load a few personal items, including their guitars, and their two dogs into their car and a small travel trailer. They, like others, were trapped in a line of cars trying to evacuate when fire authorities ordered them out of their cars and into transportation to a big parking lot.

After authorities thought it safe, people were cleared to try to get to their vehicles. “Ours were unscathed but others were burned,” said Johnston. “As we drove out, fire was on all sides.”

Johnston and Clark evacuated to a home of friends near Sacramento. “We heard from a neighbor three to four houses up from ours that his had burned to the ground,” she said. “We still don’t know about ours. Luckily, we were insured. I knew that was very important.”

Later Tuesday, they would drive to the post office in Chico where mail for Paradise residents was being held. They’ll also be better able to find out the fate of their home.

Johnston said she’d keep the Town Crier and Idyllwild friends updated about their, as she described it, “journey through Hell.”

Scott Redeker and Gregg Williams, former Idyllwild residents, also had moved to Paradise, but earlier than Johnston and Clark. They, too, had trouble evacuating because of clogged evacuation routes and traffic stopped for hours. “We got out using an access road that is just gravel after trying to get out after sitting three hours and not getting anywhere,” said Williams. “Relatives of my brother all lost their homes in Paradise and we have no idea about ours. There was gridlock everywhere and no help from police and sheriff.”

Oddly, longtime friends of Redeker and Williams, Steve and Amanda Taylor, had come to visit on Wednesday only to face evacuation as well on Thursday. The four evacuated to Redding.

Shortly after the interview, the reporter received an email from Williams. Their house is still standing in one of the few neighborhoods to survive but power will be out for a long time.