The thing about Paradise is that people expected to live out their lives here in the hills. The more than three dozen residents who burned to death — in cars, in homes, on foot — just imagined those lives would last longer.
A town meant for retirement has burned to the ground, its surviving residents scattered across Northern California in shelters and hotels and family homes far from the flames. Driving the five-mile length of the town, under an unsettling orange sun, you would be hard-pressed to find more than a half dozen buildings untouched by fire.
“You get out of the way,” said Mike Conaty, a Cal Fire captain who on Monday was dispatching rescue crews to search for the more than 200 people still unaccounted for — house-by-house work more likely to turn up a body than a survivor. “Then you come back and pick up the pieces.”