In the minutes before the deadly Camp Fire engulfed the city of Paradise last Thursday, officials at first decided to issue only limited evacuation orders, according to a Thursday report from The Los Angeles Times. Authorities were reportedly trying to prevent the roads from filling up with traffic—which jeopardized evacuation efforts during another major fire in 2008—but the fire moved faster than expected and quickly threatened the entire town. At least 56 people were eventually killed, making the wildfire the deadliest in California’s history.
The Los Angeles Times notes, however, that the evacuation strategy might not have mattered anyway, given how quickly the blaze moved. Even at 8 a.m., less than two hours after the fire was originally reported, “the fire had already outrun us,” said the battalion chief for the California Department of Fire and Forestry Protection. Residents also complained that they did not receive phone alerts warning of the oncoming blaze. The director of Paradise’s emergency operations center noted that only about 25 to 30 percent of the city’s residents were enrolled in the emergency alert system. “I assumed if something were to happen, there’d be an alert on your cellphone,” one resident said.