ESPN ‘E:60’ Special Digs Through the Ashes of Paradise in the Wake of Devastating Wildfire

Reporter Tom Rinaldi and producer follow the Paradise High School football team as they return to the field after last year’s Camp Fire

Last Updated: September 10, 2019 @ 10:09 AM

ESPN’s award-winning series “E:60” headed to Paradise, California for a special episode airing Tuesday night.

Titled “Paradise: From the Ashes,” reporter Tom Rinaldi and producer Russell Dinallo witnessed first-hand the devastation reaped by last year’s wildfires that destroyed most of the small town in the Sierra Nevada foothills.

“E:60” follows the impact of the Camp Fire on the Paradise High School football team, where only three players and two coaches escaped without losing their homes — but their spirit and drive to win survived.

“We’re displaced all over this nation,” one high school player says in a voiceover for Tuesday’s episode. “I was afraid that things would never be the same again.”

Head coach Rick Prinz explained why after the town had been through such a tragedy that “Paradise is still a football town.”

Eighty-six people died in the November, 2018, Camp Fire; over 10,000 were displaced and 18,804 buildings were destroyed in what has been described as the deadliest and most destructive fire in California history.

“My first meeting with the Paradise team was in a food court in Chico, California, about five weeks after the fire. We met there because it was pretty much the only space the team had to gather in at that point,” ESPN producer Dinallo recalled. “Coach Prinz and a handful of his rising seniors were there. The school was holding classes in a conference room next to a Dick’s Sporting Goods in the same mall.

“It became apparent in that moment that the displacement everyone in the town was facing was going to be a big part of the story,” he continued. “But despite all that, when I asked Coach that day what the chances were the team would have a season, he didn’t hesitate: ‘We plan on having one.’ That was the start of what became a 10-month journey following the team as they tried to get back on the field.”

Read ESPN’s official episode synopsis:

Nestled on a ridge in the Sierra Nevada’s, 170 miles North of San Francisco, is the town of Paradise, CA. It’s where in 1999 Rick Prinz began building a proud high school football tradition. In 20 years under Prinz the team racked up 166 wins, 10 league championships, 6 section titles. As one resident would put it “Paradise is a football town.”

Then, on the morning of Nov. 8, 2018, life in Paradise would change forever. “The Camp Fire” swept through the town, burning 150,000 acres, destroying over 18,000 structures, taking 85 lives. Of the over 100 members of the Paradise football program, all but 5 would lose their homes. Yet among the devastation, there was a silver lining – Paradise High School, and the field the team called home, did not burn.

For the last 10 months, E:60’s cameras have followed the Bobcats on their journey – through the region’s housing crisis, and the community’s monumental task of beginning to rebuild – towards a singular goal – to once again play football in Paradise.

“Paradise: From the Ashes” airs on ESPN as part of Tuesday’s “E:60” at 9/10  7 p.m. ET.

Also airing during Tuesday’s episode is “Game One: The Legend of the Kentucky Bourbons vs. the Milwaukee Schlitz.” Sports Emmy-winning reporter Jeremy Schaap follows the discovery of lost video tapes of a historic legendary professional slo-pitch softball game and “and in the process unearths a moment of television history not seen since 1979,” according to ESPN.

Watch the trailers below: