“You had 40,000 people who got displaced,” Gary Kout, ‘Fire in Paradise’ producer, said.
“I had, you know, probably 25 minutes to think of what I needed to grab,” Brittany Santos, Paradise survivor, said.
Santos raised her young daughter in Paradise. She heard about the plume of smoke over her town when she was at work.
“It was pitch black, all you could see was the glow, which, you know, that means fire is coming and all the darkness and there was so much traffic. It’s just… Am I going to get out of here alive? Am I going to be safe? This is horrific,” Santos said.
Now, a documentary on the fire, produced by Kout, is hitting the big screen. ‘Fire in Paradise’ tells the stories of those who were there, firsthand.
“Hearing about it completely did not prepare me for the reality of what had happened,” Kout said.
Kout saw it all from the Rogue Valley. On Thanksgiving Day last year he and his crew started filming ‘Fire in Paradise.’
“There were definitely going to be some, some stories that could be told and the more we looked into it we realized that these are stories that need to be told,” Kout said.
The film depicts what the fire was like from the eyes of survivors and first responders who lived through it.
“As I would come home between filming I would drive through Ashland and actually like imagine that kind of thing happening here. Driving down Main Street and all the buildings are burned down. Driving through residential neighborhoods and all the houses are gone,” Kout said.
While the town of Paradise is starting to rebuild, Santos and many others aren’t moving back.
“I want to kind of keep the memory of what it was versus what it currently looks like now,” Santos said.
She and her daughter, now 7, are looking forward and trying to leave the horrifying moments of Nov. 8 of last year behind them. They’re making new memories in a new home.
The screening of ‘Fire in Paradise’ is Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Varsity Theater in Ashland. It’s being put on by the Ashland Independent Film Festival. Proceeds will go toward the North Valley Community Foundation, which supports survivors of the fire. There will also be a Q&A after with the people behind the movie, as well as members of Ashland Fire and Rescue.
The movie is available on Netflix right now.
Anna Weeks is a multimedia journalist for NBC5 News. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from Oregon State University with a degree in Digital Communication Arts and a minor in writing. Previously, she interned with the National Association of Broadcasters at the NAB Show in Las Vegas.
Originally from the Portland area, Anna is excited to explore Southern Oregon. In her free time, she can be found reading, running or watching sports.