SACRAMENTO, Calif., April 11, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- Eight media outlets are collaborating to produce a major two-part investigative series, "Destined to Burn," which examines how life and property loss can be prevented in catastrophic California blazes. In November 2018, 85 people died and the northern Californian town of Paradise was devastated in the Camp Fire, the deadliest wildfire in California history. Starting today, April 11, the first installment of the series, which looks at what went wrong and lessons learned from the Camp Fire, will be available on the digital platforms of collaborating news outlets.
"Destined to Burn" brings together local journalists who covered the California fires for The Sacramento Bee, Chico Enterprise-Record, Paradise Post, Record Searchlight in Redding, Reno Gazette-Journal, Ventura County Star, Desert Sun and The Associated Press to report on what they discovered following five months' worth of investigation.
Collaborators researched state hazard assessments, wind models, age of housing stock and evacuation plans for 187 California communities designated as "high risk." The newsrooms took into consideration demographic and socioeconomic data, road patterns and other materials to determine which of those communities' residents would have the most trouble evacuating.
Among the project's key findings: a startling conclusion that one in 12 homes in California is at high risk of burning in a wildfire. The news organizations also identified 15 places statewide that are most likely to burn. They include Nevada City, a quaint foothills town with Gold Rush-era buildings; Kings Beach, a resort on the north shore of Lake Tahoe; and Rancho Palos Verdes, a wealthy coastal suburb of Los Angeles and home to a Trump National Golf Club.
The extensive research resulted in stories, videos, maps, photographs and data sets that make up both installments of the print/digital "Destined to Burn" project.
Installment One: What's around us -- Featuring work from The Sacramento Bee, Chico Enterprise-Record and Paradise Post, this installment examines California's housing stock, the towns most at risk in wildfires and whether thinning of fire fuels is productive. It also offers an essay on the California experience -- describing residents' resilience in the face of disaster and why Californians are determined to rebuild even after communities are destroyed. (Pub dates: April 11, digital; April 14, print)
Installment Two: How we get out -- Featuring work from the (Redding) Record Searchlight, Reno Gazette-Journal, Ventura County Star, Desert Sun and The Associated Press, this installment offers alarming findings about just how unprepared California communities are for evacuating residents from their homes and preventing deadly traffic jams for people who do escape. It also calls upon Californians to look to other natural disaster-prone areas for evacuation planning guidance. (Pub dates: April 25, digital; April 28, print)
"This unprecedented collaboration among Western newsrooms grew out of a desire to help people across the state understand the threats and what they can do to mitigate them," said Lauren Gustus, editor of The Sacramento Bee and regional editor of McClatchy's West Region. "We've harnessed the power of local journalists across the state to provide groundbreaking coverage and analysis. We hope to spur community engagement and policy change at the local and state levels so together we can prevent future life and property loss."
The group shared data and methodology with other local news organizations in California via the AP ahead of publication so outlets could do their own, original reporting in areas that are most likely to burn. The Associated Press will also make available all project materials to its member news organizations and customers for print and digital publication in California and beyond.
"We are stronger as an industry when we work together rather than alone," said Noreen Gillespie, AP's deputy managing editor for U.S. News. "These stories, along with the stories that can be done by other newsrooms using the data localization, shed light on how many California residents are in potential danger, and where exactly they are. That is powerful local journalism."
The "Destined to Burn" project release coincides with California Governor Gavin Newsom's recent state wildfire emergency declaration. The governor cited "extreme peril" to life and property as a means of expediting tree clearing and forest management. They are fire prevention efforts that, as outlined comprehensively via the "Destined to Burn" project, are in urgent need before California finds itself responding to the next wildfire emergency.
McClatchy operates 30 media companies in 14 states, providing each of its communities with strong independent local journalism in the public interest and advertising services in a wide array of digital and print formats. McClatchy publishes iconic local brands including the Miami Herald, The Kansas City Star, The Sacramento Bee, The Charlotte Observer, The (Raleigh)News & Observer, and the Fort WorthStar-Telegram. McClatchy is headquartered in Sacramento, Calif., and listed on the New York Stock Exchange American under the symbol MNI. #ReadLocal
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