‘Fire in Paradise’ film showing March 5
With the upcoming fire season approaching, the thought of a wildfire on the mountain is looming.
Cal Fire Battalion Chief Josh Bischof, of Menifee, grew up in Mountain Center. He started his career in the fire service at the age of 18 working for the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), then Cal Fire.
Bischof recently spoke to the Town Crier about the deadly Camp Fire that wiped out the town of Paradise, California in November 2018.
“I’m an Operations Section Chief assigned to Cal Fire Incident Management Team 4,” Bischof said. “I was there [Paradise, California] with the Incident Management Team as one of the operations chiefs.”
The first reports of the Camp Fire came in at 6:30 a.m. on Nov. 8, 2018. By 7:30 a.m., Bischof’s team was activated to respond and they stayed until local units could take over the management on their own.
Bischof has worked for Cal Fire for over 20 years and just started in his new role as battalion chief supervising the Hemet Ryan Air Attack Base.
Bischof spoke during a phone interview about how important forethought is for any community in fire-prone areas.
“One of the important things is not to wait until there is a fire to figure out what you’re going to do,” said Bischof. “Be involved, prepared and ready beforehand. That is critical.”
Cal Fire and the USFS have been conducting fuel reduction projects, clearing areas prior to a wildfire, which has likely played a role in saving our community in the past.
In the summer of 2018, the Cranston Fire forced the evacuation of Mountain
Center, Garner Valley, Pine Cove and Idyllwild.
“The Cranston Fire could have been a lot worse if there weren’t those fuel reduction projects,” explained Bischof. “We didn’t have high winds like at the Camp Fire, but it was good evidence that fuel reduction helps.”
While the Camp Fire was a horrific incident, there were plans in place that saved many lives, partly because of community involvement.
“That community had evacuation plans,” said Bischof. “They had trained on evacuations. The plan worked, and while it’s horrific that 85 people died, 40,000 people got out. If that community hadn’t done all the prep, it could have been worse.
“When evacuation warnings are given by law enforcement, take them to heart,” Bischof said. “When firefighters are trying to get into a small community, it’s obviously problematic when we try to respond if people stay. It causes congestion on the roadways. That can be challenging.”
While the Camp Fire was unpredictable, many in Paradise, California were prepared and ready to go when the word came through that they needed to leave, saving thousands of lives.
Public viewing of “Fire in Paradise”
The Mountain Communities Fire Safe Council is hosting a public viewing of “Fire in Paradise” at Idyllwild School, 26700 Highway 243, at 6 p.m. on Thursday, March 5.
The PBS Frontline Documentary is about the 2018 Camp Fire and originally aired on PBS Oct. 29, 2019.
Public safety agencies will be available to answer any questions the public may have after the viewing of the film. The agencies include Cal Fire, U.S. Forest Service (USFS), California Highway Patrol, Idyllwild Fire Protection District, Riverside County Emergency Management Department, Riverside County Sheriff’s Department. Organizations such as Mountain Communities Fire Safe Council, Mountain Disaster Preparedness and Team Rubicon will also be available to answer questions.
For more information about planning for wildfires, you can visit Cal Fire at https://plan.readyforwildfire.org/.