Best of the Week — First Winner
Cataclysmic fires cap off week of momentous and devastating news in California
California’s news staff still was in the midst of reporting the tragic night-spot shooting in Thousand Oaks when news reached the AP that a wildfire in Northern California was spreading quickly, sending thousands fleeing.
Bay Area freelance photographer Noah Berger, as good a fire chaser as there is anywhere, tipped the office off that the Northern California fire looked explosive. By 11 a.m. Sacramento reporter Don Thompson was hitting the road, and a first AP NewsAlert moved saying people fleeing for their lives had abandoned vehicles as the fire swept in.
AP’s all-formats coverage went into high gear, with staffers pouring in from the region. In addition to Thompson, who stayed at the scene with fire crews for several days straight, Portland, Ore., all-formats reporter Gilly Flaccus arrived, producing unmatched interviews in text and video of survivors and of crews searching for the remains of those killed. San Francisco reporter Paul Elias gathered information on the dramatic rescues and chaotic evacuation, while Las Vegas photographer John Locher and Denver videographer Peter Banda provided gripping visuals from the scene.
AP was first to report thousands of homes destroyed, first to report a named victim, and we were alone in accompanying a search and recovery crew in all formats as they went to a victim’s home and found her remains.
The coverage was nuanced and emotional. California News Editor Frank Baker says there was no one on the California staff who didn’t contribute, working unrelentingly from last week’s elections and mass shooting straight into the wildfire.
For outstanding work, bolstered and supported by California’s all-formats reporting staff and editors, Thompson, Flaccus, Elias, Berger, Locher and Banda share this AP's Best of the Week.