All disasters happen over three days.
The first day is made of all the days that come before. The history, the people, the choices, the mistakes that made what happen… happen.
This is where Paradise, California passed all of its history… from a town named after the Pair-O-Dice saloon until the last sunset before the nightmare of the Camp Fire. It was a place where working people were content to live simple lives known only to their family and friends.
The second day is the catastrophe. For Paradise it was November 8, 2018, a Thursday morning. The Camp Fire started at 6:30 a.m. In three hours every man, woman and child was running for their lives. It destroyed the town by noon, killing dozens, leaving 450 missing and leveling 13,500 buildings… churches, schools, restaurants, businesses, apartments and houses. It made 27,000 people homeless.
Ordinary people were forced to make the choices which saved, or ended, their lives.
• A pregnant mother in the middle of a cesarean section begs her husband to take their newborn to safety while doctors race to finish her operation in time to evacuate.
• Fire fighters gather trapped citizens in a Walgreens and order flame retardant air dropped on the building to keep it safe while fire destroyed every structure around it.
• Police race down gridlocked streets, punching car windows and yelling for citizens to abandon their vehicles and run for their lives as tornados of fire whirl closer.
• A garbage man is ordered to abandon his route, but refuses. He knows an elderly woman at the end of his line has no hope of assistance. His truck is her only chance for safety.
• Families jump into a reservoir with their horses, dogs and children as their homes vanish in fire just a few yards away.
• A school bus driver drives back through the flames to find marooned kids.
• A good Samaritan ferries people out of town until the turn signals melt off his car.
• A high school football team, dreaming of the playoffs, is forced to abandon the season when every player and coach lose their homes. Three days later, they stand with the 49ers as the team’s guests at Monday Night Football.
• And a Sheriff who works to evacuate a town as flames advanced, because 18-months earlier he was forced to evacuate another town as fear of a crumbling dam would flood it in a matter of minutes.
The third day is the day after and all that follow. It’s when everything people have known or cherished has been wrecked by disaster. They hope to rebuild, if it’s possible.
Three Days in Paradise is a multi-part docuseries told in the cinematic style of Wild, Wild Country and Making a Murderer, told by Christopher Allan Smith, an award-winning filmmaker who lived in Paradise and with his family. On November 8 he and his family raced to abandon their home of 13 years as the Camp Fire advanced.
Through personal and professional connections with neighbors, local law enforcement, fire fighters, doctors, nurses, town, city, and county officials and leading citizens, Smith can tell this extraordinary story from the inside. He can tell the deeply personal, emotional stories that reveal the true horror and scale of the Camp Fire and make it a series, an event, worth remembering.