- Aug. 27, 2021, 5:42 p.m. ET
TAYLORSVILLE, Calif. — In the six agelong weeks since the Dixie fire, the second-largest blaze connected grounds successful California, erupted successful the bluish Sierra Nevada, the occurrence has scorched immense tracts of forest, incinerated gold-rush towns, and upended thousands of lives, forcing radical crossed 1,000 quadrate miles to fly their homes.
Through it all, the scattered residents of the country astir Greenville, a municipality of astir 1,000 that was each but destroyed aboriginal this month, person been capable to number connected 1 thing, astatine least: the raspy, reassuring dependable of Daniel Kearns helping them to marque consciousness of what is going connected backmost home.
Mr. Kearns, a unpaid firefighter from adjacent Taylorsville, posts regular unrecorded videos online that explicate the latest occurrence enactment maps — which astatine a glimpse mightiness look arsenic though the occurrence had swallowed the spot full — and that amusement that world connected the ground, though very, precise smoky, is simply a small little terrifying than it mightiness look from afar.
“Only done each this tin I perceive that the occurrence is astir our household location and consciousness calm astir it,” Michaela Garcia wrote astir Mr. Kearns’s videos this week from Chico. “Thank you, Dan, we are genuinely truthful lucky.””
A erstwhile Marine, Mr. Kearns, 39, tin task calm adjacent erstwhile the upland down him is on occurrence and pouring fume — arsenic it was this week portion the occurrence menaced Taylorsville — oregon erstwhile it is approaching places helium knows well. “My mom’s,” helium said recently, pointing astatine the map.
He began posting the regular unrecorded videos connected his idiosyncratic Facebook page successful precocious July, astir 2 weeks aft the Dixie occurrence erupted, due to the fact that helium saw misinformation spreading online astir towns being destroyed successful the Indian Valley, which is surrounded by densely forested mountains. “I could archer it was truly upsetting people,” helium said.
The assemblage for the videos surged aft Greenville burned down connected Aug. 4 and much of the country was evacuated successful the pursuing weeks. Even arsenic helium assisted occurrence crews fending disconnected the flames, Mr. Kearns gathered accusation for his videos by touring the vale successful his occurrence engine, and gathering regularly with Forest Service personnel.
Many section residents felt that the fire authorities’ ain briefings were superficial oregon that they painted a misleadingly cheery representation of events connected the ground, said Travis Rubke, a retired subject teacher who had to evacuate from Greenville. “It’s bully to person a local,” Mr. Rubke said. “People say, ‘You’ve got to tune successful to Dan.’”
The Lookout, a website tally by Zeke Lunder, a forestry and occurrence adept whose vigor maps and investigation are besides wide followed by radical successful the fire’s path, has referred to him arsenic “volunteer assemblage PIO/hero Daniel Kearns.” And his videos present get arsenic galore arsenic 3,000 views a time from radical arsenic acold distant arsenic New Mexico and New Zealand.
“I’ve recovered that the truth, nary substance however achy and disfigured it is, calms radical down,” Mr. Kearns said, successful an interview. “And this is simply a precise important clip for radical to beryllium calm.”
There is much to his appeal, though, than conscionable the latest facts. Mr. Kearns personalizes his videos with off-the-cuff remarks, passionate critiques of national wood absorption policies and soulful reflections connected “the trauma connected our onshore and people.”
He closes each video by taking disconnected his cap, closing his eyes and calling for “a infinitesimal of soundlessness for our earthy relations” — the burning forests and the bears, foxes, cervid and different wildlife that lives successful them.
Those moments — similar the videos themselves — person provided a regular ritual for radical flung acold from their homes and neighbors, and a mantra for those inactive successful the vale who are trying to support the flames distant from cattle ranches and sacred Native American ground.
Mr. Kearns says helium hopes to stay a dependable of calm and a root of close accusation arsenic agelong arsenic the occurrence persists. But helium often reminds his audience, “I’m conscionable a guy.”
And if higher-ups don’t similar his videos, helium says, the worst they tin bash is instrumentality distant his cap.