One Town's Struggle to Survive an American Wildfire

Through stories of Cal Fire personnel and Paradise city administrators, Paradise reveals the humanity behind wildfire disasters that have affected our region. Readers will get a window into the social structures that help and hinder community resiliency. The book powerfully conveys sense of place and connection to nature and community that is part of Northern California identity. While the book generates feelings of empathy and the desire to protect these special places, it is a painful and difficult read.

TRIGGER WARNING: Forensically graphic descriptions of wildfire victims 

432 pages. ©2021.
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Reader Reviews for this Book


Review posted January 25, 2023


I have friends that lost everything in the Paradise fire. I hoped this book would give me some understanding of what they went through. It was sad, concerning, and brought to light some issues that need to be addressed by California and items that should have been looked into before this catastrophe occured.


Review posted December 8, 2022


Good perspective. It was emotional for me though.


Review posted December 8, 2022


This something that was hard for me to read only because it hits so close to home for my family. My grandfather grew up in this area of California and had lots of stories to tell about all the shenanigans when he was a kid. The book was a great point of view about the reality of what happened. I also think it helped my grandfather get some closure on some things as well. We read it together and was a great bonding moment to live and talk about this tragedy with each other based on what the book had to tell.


Review posted November 29, 2022


I just got this book and am already half way done. This is a heartbreaking book about the town of Paradise CA.


Review posted October 18, 2022


I've encountered a lot of folks in my community (southern Oregon) who have been impacted by this event and having some of those experiences integrated into a text for others to learn can be crucial for those in the helping fields. I've shared this with a new colleague who relocated to Oregon for work and had no knowledge of this event. Both of us agree that this provides valuable insight to the importance of community in tragedy and how we can find ourselves in a position of allyship for those in hardship such as this. I also found that I was reflecting on my knowledge of response to grief and loss as a result of this book.


Review posted October 4, 2022


I read this book in one day, I couldn’t put it down! It was very well written, factual, and informative. It was very well researched and written with compassion. I was personally affected by the Paradise fire and it was interesting to learn many more details than I had experienced from it. It is devastating the amount of lives lost and property unsalvageable.

Mary Babb

Review posted September 12, 2022


This book left me on the edge of my seat and hard to put down. The devastation is horrible and my heart hurts for all of the inhabitants of Paradise. I am hoping that this town can rebuild and become a better community structure. At the beginning the book was hard to follow but the more I read the more I understood.

Shannon Richardson

Review posted August 29, 2022


Paradise was a harrowing, heartbreaking read that maintained humanity at its core. Lizzie Johnson's narrative is fast-paced, and thorough in telling the stories of the people impacted by the Camp Fire. Elected officials, emergency responders, hosptial workers, caretakers, teachers, parents and other community members responded in the ways they knew how and while that was sometimes enough to save a life, Paradise also highlights how much is missing from many communities' emergency response plans and systems. This aspect of the book is chilling. There is no fluff to the story. Johnson's writing is sometimes speculative, but her background as a reporter helps ensure a factual retelling of events and human experience that is unadorned. And these stories matter greatly. Readers have ready access to books and articles about fire science, fire behavior, and fire fighting and suppression, amongh other technical aspects. But the stories are each unique, and serve to remind us that we are vulnerable, yet capable of great strength and selflessness.


Review posted August 12, 2022


Very intense. Starts slowly and then as the fire starts roaring, so does the pace of this book. There were a lot of people featured—I wished for a list to refer to. Shows how hard it is to balance protection against fire versus other needs in our communities.


Review posted July 1, 2022


Great Book..Learned a lot that the news did not show


Review posted June 18, 2022


I felt like I was reading a novel rather than a non-fiction. Although I like to read about people who have exciting experiences., it was a scary book for me to read because I live in a forested community. So many of my friends have had to evacuate during the recent fires, but, luckily, none of them have lost their homes.


Review posted June 9, 2022


It was so informative. It gave me an insight to the tragedy of wild fires


Review posted May 5, 2022


As someone who has followed this entire tragedy and worked with so many survivors of these circumstances, this book is enthralling and absolutely worth the read both to hear the story itself but to really humanize and bring the reality to light.