The five routes out of town quickly became gridlocked with traffic, abandoned vehicles and downed power poles during the blaze. Half the town’s 200 miles (320 kilometers) of roads are privately owned, many of them narrow, dead-end tracks leading through small, densely forested lots. Authorities found five bodies in and around vehicles trapped at the end of a long road with no way out.
To make the town safe, officials would have to start fresh with a new grid of interconnected streets and alleys, spend millions of dollars a year to keep brush and trees in check, and force homeowners to keep their properties clear, Lunder said.
“We’re not going to keep fires from burning through Paradise, so whatever they build up there should be something that can survive a wildfire,” Lunder said. “But just building a bunch of wooden houses out in the brush, we already saw what happened.”