News Archive

  • Friday
    Celefin's "Track Switch - Steel Dreams" [Royal Canterlot Library]

    Today's story is engineered to be quite a moving tale.


    Track Switch - Steel Dreams
    [Slice of Life] [Human] • 12,434 words

    Modern just in time supply chains require arcane logistics. The people I work for specialise in that special kind of magic. Me? I just make sure stuff gets from A to B. And I'm good at it. All over western Europe. Always at night. Always alone — just the way I like it.

    Read More

    5 comments · 637 views
  • 1 week
    Revenant Wings' "Reconstruction" [Royal Canterlot Library]

    Today's story assembles a unique look at Starlight's aftereffects.


    Reconstruction
    [Drama] [Sad] [Slice of Life] • 6,378 words

    The former equalized ponies struggle to reconstruct their town after Starlight Glimmer's defeat, and Double Diamond struggles to reconstruct his own identity after being freed from Starlight's equalization brainwashing.

    Read More

    2 comments · 1,798 views
  • 2 weeks
    Lost + Found Features: "Decisions" / "The Unicorn and the Crow" [Royal Canterlot Library]

    From time to time, despite our best efforts, we don't have a feature ready to post come Friday—but that doesn't mean we can't recommend some reading material! We keep track of the stories which passed our approval process but whose authors have proven impossible to contact. We'd like to give these stories their time in the spotlight too, so read on for two RCL-approved tales for your reading pleasure.


    Decisions
    By hester1
    [Sad][Slice of Life] • 2,818 words

    A server waits on six ponies in a restaurant. The diners have drinking contests and discuss social responsibility. The clock ticks ever on and on.

    Read More

    0 comments · 1,679 views
  • 4 weeks
    Starscribe's "The Last Pony on Earth" [Royal Canterlot Library]

    The last stop for today's story is the RCL spotlight.


    The Last Pony on Earth
    [Adventure] [Mystery] [Human] • 102,429 words

    Until yesterday, my life was no different than anybody's. Go to work, pay the bills, sleep. Today, I woke up to a world without humans. The streets are empty, the power grid is running down, and not another soul is in sight. That might not be the worst thing, if I wasn't also a pony.

    Where is everyone? Why is this happening to me?

    Will l stay sane long enough to starve?

    Read More

    15 comments · 2,657 views
  • 5 weeks
    Tangerine Blast's "Under Layers of Dirt and Worry" [Royal Canterlot Library]

    Today's story worries.


    Under Layers of Dirt and Worry
    [Drama][Slice of Life] • 3,598 words

    It had been a long day of saving the world, and the usually perky pony wanted nothing more than to collapse into bed.

    Unfortunately, somepony's waiting at Sugarcube Corner.

    Pinkie was fine. She just needed to sleep.

    Read More

    8 comments · 1,906 views
  • 6 weeks
    Antiquarian's "The Tab" [Royal Canterlot Library]

    We hope you plan to pick up today's story.


    The Tab
    [Comedy] [Sad] [Slice of Life] [Alternate Universe] • 4,092 words

    Years have passed since the Crystal War ended. Twilight Sparkle visits an old haunt to spend some time catching up with her friends. Then comes the question of who picks up the tab.

    Read More

    3 comments · 1,928 views
  • 7 weeks
    alt-tap's "An Ordinary Day" [Royal Canterlot Library]

    Today's story is no ordinary tale.


    An Ordinary Day
    [Slice of Life] • 5,436 words

    Fluttershy lives a happy life. Every day is special. All of her friends are lovely ponies.

    Today is a day just like any other; she wakes in the morning, does her chores, sees her friends, takes a nap and sees more of her friends before an evening of relaxation.

    Just an ordinary, wonderful day.

    Read More

    4 comments · 2,341 views
  • 8 weeks
    Muramasa's "The Thief and the Princess" [Royal Canterlot Library]

    Don't let today's story slip past you unnoticed.


    The Thief and the Princess
    [Slice of Life][Thriller] • 3,252 words

    In the dead of night, a thief breaks into the royal palace in Canterlot to steal Celestia's crown. She successfully sneaks through the palace and enters the room where this prize possession is kept, with not a soul the wiser.

    Well, save for a certain Princess.

    Read More

    2 comments · 2,135 views
  • 9 weeks
    Cherax's "Sundowner Season" [Royal Canterlot Library]

    It's always a good season to read today's story.


    Sundowner Season
    [Drama] [Sad] • 21,493 words

    With a heavy heart and an empty journal, Rarity heads north.

    Read More

    2 comments · 1,510 views
  • 10 weeks
    Summer Dancer's "Sandbox" [Royal Canterlot Library]

    Today's story doesn't play around when it comes to adorable-yet-poignant pony portrayals.


    Sandbox
    [Slice of Life] • 3,045 words

    When trying to focus on her studies, Sunset Shimmer is stuck watching an annoying little filly who just won't let her study.

    Read More

    10 comments · 2,293 views
Nov
24th
2018

Author Interview » California's Camp Fire [Royal Canterlot Library special interview] · 1:47am November 24th

Today's feature asks us to put the brakes on for just a minute.

With the arrival of Thanksgiving here in the U.S., we hit the downhill portion of the holiday season: a month of rushing around that will see us all careening out the other side smack dab into the new year. We often take holidays off to encourage our readers to catch up (with friends and families, and on features from our archives), but this year, instead we would like to bring the focus on people who could use some help — those who found themselves in the path of the Camp Fire, which recently swept through the foothills of northern California.

Horizon, who I'm guessing needs no introduction around here, works with a Search & Rescue unit in the Sierra Nevada mountains near the fire, and was called in to the town of Paradise to help comb through the rubble.  We've asked him to discuss his experiences, as well as ways to help those affected by the fire.  Read on for his photos and commentary.



One of Horizon's teammates looks out at burned landscape near Paradise, CA.

Give us some background to bring readers up to speed on the destruction of the Camp Fire.

The first thing to know is: Since 2006, California has been in a drought for every year but one.  The state is a tinderbox full of dried and dying vegetation.  On top of that, our Mediterranean climate means that once spring warms up you don't see a single cloud for six months.  As such, the state has seen a series of increasingly destructive wildfires throughout recent fire seasons — 4 of the 5 largest fires in California history have started in the last five years.  (Third place happened in 2003.)

The Camp Fire, which started near Paradise, CA (about 50 miles from my house as the crow flies), barely makes the Top 20 list by size.  But it started on an unusually windy day near a town of 26,000 people.  It spread so fast that firefighters were neither able to keep it from the town, nor able to oversee an orderly evacuation.  So it almost immediately became the deadliest and most destructive fire in California history, as well as (I am told) the largest coordinated search response in California history.

The death toll is currently at 84 and still rising (with hundreds of people still missing).  Over 18,000 buildings burned, including almost 10,000 homes.  (Basically the entire town of Paradise, and several outlying communities.)  In terms of the human toll, if you took the five next worst California wildfires and added them all together, the Camp Fire STILL beats them.  We've never seen fire destruction at this scale.


Disaster responders gather amid the smoke at a staging area in Paradise, CA: about half of the 525 searchers deployed that day.

How did you get involved with the relief efforts?  What did you do?

I've been volunteering with our county's Search & Rescue team for about a year, and I started helping with the Camp Fire when our agency got a mutual aid callout request from Butte County (where Paradise is located).  My agency deployed for a total of nine days, of which I was able to escape the day job and join in for six.  The work of disaster recovery is very much still going on, but they've pulled us back for the holiday weekend, and might or might not re-deploy us later.  (It's very difficult to request volunteer time for extended deployments like this; all of the fire, emergency and law enforcement responders still on site at least are getting paid for their time.)

As Search & Rescue personnel, our primary job was to search for ... let's just say, confirmation of the fate of missing people.  We were typically deployed to burned-out neighborhoods, checking burned vehicles and then going door-to-door through the foundations of destroyed buildings.  It was far too late for any human rescue efforts, but the work helped bring closure to their families, and was a major factor (along with infrastructure repair and hazard clearing) in helping lift the evacuation orders which kept residents from returning to the few homes still standing.

In the chaos, many residents also had to leave pets behind.  When we could, we tried to provide food and water that could help the few still-living pets survive until their owners returned.  We fed a number of starving chickens and dogs, and saw wandering goats and llamas and even a few horses.  (There were specific livestock rescue teams coming in to re-home those — we helped one find an address they were looking for south of town.)  There was one heartbreaking moment four days in, when we found an undamaged, locked home with no pet door and a cat inside — both of its bowls were empty, but as civilian volunteers we couldn't legally do anything but look through the window and hope.


Horizon's Search & Rescue team breaks for lunch at a destroyed home near Butte Creek, on the outskirts of Paradise, CA.

What was it like being in the fire zone?

First of all, we weren't anywhere near where the fire was actively burning.  Volunteer safety is always SAR's first priority.  You NEVER want to create another victim.

That's not to say we didn't see fire.  I saw some open flames inside a hollowed-out standing tree as we were driving back from our assignment one day.  We'd already turned our radios in so I had to find cell reception and call the fire in.  Fire teams were actually stretched so thin that they said to ignore it; the area had already been burned so thoroughly that even if the tree fell and started a secondary blaze, it didn't really have anywhere to spread.

What really floored me was the intensity of the destruction.  For example:

Plastic, even heavy-duty plastic like trash cans, simply vaporized.  I remember seeing a pile of scorched tin cans in someone's yard surrounded by a weird blue tint to the ground, and it took me a minute to realize that that was where their recycling bin used to be.  There was absolutely no trace of the bin except for that blue cast to the dirt, and the sturdiest of its contents.

What used to be car tires could be recognized by the bare wheel, surrounded by what looked like coils of frayed wire — the steel of the steel-belted radials.

What was even crazier was what happened to metal.  We saw dozens of burned-out car husks with inch-wide stripes of shiny material on the ground nearby, running downhill from the car.  The iron of the frame, which melts at a much higher temperature, had stayed in place, while the aluminum had melted and dripped into pools, then started flowing away and re-solidified midstream.

(You can see that if you click on the panorama above to look at the full-sized photo, and zoom in on the very lower right corner.  That was actually an even more bizarre one, because after the metal solidified, it curled inward on itself so the uphill side of the stream was hanging suspended in midair.)

The difference between a two-story and a one-story house, for the most part, was just whether you were sifting through two inches of ash or six inches.  There was only one house I knew without a doubt was a multi-story building, and that's because in the center of the debris was a deformed iron spiral staircase.

We were told to pay special attention to beds, recliners, and bathtubs and showers, since that was where we were most likely to encounter remains.  We located beds and recliners by finding the springs which used to be inside the mattress.  For bathrooms, sometimes all we had to go on was that we had a lot of tile fragments.  Ceramic toilets and bathtubs would simply shatter (either under the heat of the fire or the pressure of a falling roof).  Metal tubs and pipes would survive, but plastic PVC piping leading to showerheads and sinks and bathtubs would be gone without a trace.

Bizarrely, it was often easiest to tell where living rooms and bedrooms were because bookshelves were very identifiable.  Books would only burn around the edges; the paper was so dense that the centers of pages would survive (or at least stay clumped together in dense white piles that fell apart once you started picking through).  I found some garages where all that survived was the metal roof, the metal parts of the cars inside, and some tiny legible page fragments of automobile manuals.

We'd also go through neighborhoods where nine houses out of ten would be a pile of debris less than a foot high, and the tenth house would be utterly untouched.  And there's at least one news story about an ambulance crew which huddled inside a garage as fire encircled them completely, and managed to survive.  Even now it's hard to wrap my head around how capricious the fire was.

Is there anything readers can do to help?

Victims?  Very much yes.

Me?  No.  As disaster responders we were treated very well.  Cal Fire has entire crews dedicated to feeding the rest of the responders; every day we got enormous cooked breakfasts and dinners and packed bag lunches twice the size of what we could eat, and when we got back to the base camp and went through decontamination, there were hot showers and laundry service and a tent city where we could sleep in cots.  Then we'd go out there the next morning and be reminded all over again of why were were there.

This is, ultimately, 100% about the people affected.  I haven't set up a specific charity/GoFundMe/etc to collect funds to redistribute to them because, to be honest, the needs are so overwhelming I haven't had the time to research where sending it would do the most good.  But here's a fairly comprehensive list of organizations working toward different kinds of relief that could all use some cash.  I personally sent some money toward North Valley Community Foundation, which is funnelling it to groups providing shelter for victims — an absolutely crucial need but a short-term one.  (The American Red Cross is directly providing shelter, and they also work with other disasters nationwide.)  Northern California United Way is giving cash and gift cards directly to victims, which will help with short- to medium-term recovery in ways that mere housing won't.  The California Community Foundation focuses on longer-term relief.  You can also check GoFundMe et.al. for individual victims' pages, but I'm fortunate enough not to have any IRL friends directly affected — which also means I can't vouch for any individual fundraising campaign.  I hope if any bronies have fire-related needs, they'll speak up (or signal-boost it) in comments so readers know.

What does SAR work normally entail?  Is it different from what you're doing in this particular case?

Sometimes we work with the county sheriff's office to look for evidence in criminal cases or death investigations, but the majority of our work is looking for missing people, and the majority of those cases have happy endings.  Typically, we show up when hikers/hunters get lost, children wander off while parents' backs are turned, or elderly people with dementia step out their door and keep going.

This was very different but equally necessary.


Horizon shows off some of the protective equipment that helped searchers sift through destroyed homes more safely. (Helmets, gloves, and Tyvek bodysuits were also required.)

How did you become interested in Search and Rescue?  What sort of training do you need?

I've been an avid outdoorsman since an Outward Bound hike in 1995, and in 2006 set out to do a "thru-hike" of the western U.S.' Pacific Crest Trail, walking nearly 1000 miles in three months before my knee gave out on me near Yosemite.  A close friend turned me on to the idea of volunteering with SAR, and it seemed like a great way to use my wilderness skills to give back to the community.

My outdoor experience has helped me qualify for advanced Type 1 certification (the ability to go out in hazardous terrain and extended searches), but anyone with basic physical fitness and the willingness to put in the time can be useful, regardless of your existing skills.  In order to qualify us as ready for field work, they had a six-week training course to teach us search tactics, navigation, safety and communications, and paid for us to get certified in CPR and Wilderness First Aid (note: what the agency pays for may differ county by county).  We also have six training deployments per year to keep our skills sharp.

Do you ever discuss Pony with your fellow volunteers?

When I asked the sergeant for clearance to put my photos on social media, I got to explain that it was for a My Little Pony fanfiction site, so there's that!

I'm pretty open with the fact that I'm an MLP author.  The fact of the matter is that my fanfiction has gotten orders of magnitude more attention than my original fiction — and more views than even the published fiction of my older brother and the published non-fiction of my father — so it's pretty easy to explain that MLP fandom is a fantastic source of feedback and connections (not to mention a fantastic community in its own right).

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

I'll refer readers again to my answer above of how people can help the victims.  At the end of the day, for all the effort I was putting in, I had a home to return to after our deployment finished.  Tens of thousands of people don't have that luxury, and they're going to need a lot of help, both in having a place to stay right now (on a holiday, in the rain) and in trying to rebuild their life from scratch.

Repeated for simplicity:

I know that there are a lot of disasters, both large and small, all around the world — this is far from the only problem to address.  And I totally get it if you need to focus your resources elsewhere.  But please, whether it's this or elsewhere, do what you can to keep making the world a better place.  The best part of the pony community has always been its empathy and generosity.

Have a good holiday, and thanks for letting me speak up.

You can read our pony fanfiction features right here at the Royal Canterlot Library, or suggest stories for us to feature at our Fimfiction group.

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Comments ( 36 )

Godspeed you magnificent sonovabitch.

Stay safe, please.

~Skeeter The Lurker

Thanks for doing what you do, Horizon. You're a real hero!

Thank you for this story horizon and RCL. I've boosted it in my server.

Still waiting for the option of upvoting blog posts. In the meantime, I'll simply say that the world would be a better place with more people like Horizon in it.

Not going to lie. California seems like it's always on fire and we don't receive enough rain to counter our usage which sends us into a drought over summer. How much I love it here. It is a big problem with fires and we also get earthquakes which sometimes leads to more fire. So as someone from California thank Horizon for what you do and any one else in this community that is a California firefighter putting their life against mother nature to save others. You men and women are truly heros.

Thank you for this. I’ve seen some truly disgusting people who wouldn’t set politics aside for one minute. These people wanted to see Californians suffer because “California’s a liberal state.” It saddens me there are people like this.


I remembered back in my sophomore year of high school, I had to be evacuated from Rancho Cucamonga High School and my sister had to be evacuated from Chaffey College when the Etiwanda Fire hit my area.

Then, back in pre school, my mom said the entire San Gabriel Mountains was on fire and she kept my sister and I at home so we wouldn’t risk inhaling smoke. Don’t remember which one.

And finally, when I was still a 5th grader, I remembered some of my little league baseball games had to be canceled due to another wildfire.

My city and the surrounding area got lucky. Our most destructive wildfire was the Etiwanda Fire back in 2014.

I pray that people recover from these disasters.

Oh another note, the West Coast is due to have a major earthquake. From what I learned, we either have one big 10.0+ earthquake, or a series of smaller earthquakes. I’m hoping for the latter, but it’s best to prepare as soon as possible.

4972233
Thanks for the good wishes. As I noted in the post, safety is literally our #1 priority (even above making search progress). I'm back home now, and we're finally getting some serious rain this week, so even if I was still deployed, the fire danger is basically down to zero ... for a while.

Of course, dumping a load of fresh rain on bare burned hills means that now Paradise gets to deal with more different destruction from mudslides. :fluttershysad:

4972240
I need to be clear that I'm not a firefighter. (Thank you regardless.)

Firefighters have it way worse and are 115% worthy of our respect and support. When a single Search & Rescue volunteer got shot and wounded in 2016, it made national news. This year alone, 79 firefighters have died in the line of duty.

Good on you for this. You do us people proud. 👍

Thank you for all you have done, both directly in the field and by posting so that others can help in the way they can, too.

I know it had to have been a heartbreaking and traumatic experience to assist with this effort. I hope that there are resources available for you to help with the stress of this type of work.

Thank you for being there and helping. The world needs more of folks like you.

Sheee-yit.

Not much I can say except "thank you."

footto #11 · 3 weeks ago · · 3 ·

that used to be my home, paradise ca. more a prison honestly. the entire town had a mafia-type control run by one lady, she controlled the PD, the fire departments, even the town councle. almost everyone that lived there reported to her. she would drug kids till they are drones(she was a foster parent) and she had over 400 go into her home. only 10 ever made it out without being in the back of a cop car. i managed to get away free.

while i feel bad for those who died, the town burning brings a happy tear to my eye. i am ashamed of saying that. but now the town can restart, and hopefully avoid that kind of control again.

i am speaking as someone who lived there, who has seen what the town is like at its roots, the corruption that ruled the town. to not take this as i wanted the fire to happen. merely as one who knew how the town worked behind the scenes.

for those who read this and get mad, i too had some friends up there. two who i cannot contact now, and i fear for them. but still...


and i want to say the town was a fire trap. 3 ways out of the town, one in a canyon with a sharp drop on one side, a winding road on a cliff side. the other two on grass lands with trees. a fire's dream. all three went the same general direction, so if one is burning, your stuck. hopefully on the rebuild, more routs are made to keep everyone safe.

4972241

These people wanted to see Californians suffer because “California’s a liberal state.” It saddens me there are people like this.

That makes them ignorant as well as bigoted: Paradise was a very conservative town, as are many rural places in California.

MrNumbers #13 · 3 weeks ago · · 13 ·

Personally waiting to see if Trump, since this is apparently one of the things he's weirdly into right now, thinks he can get away with a Your Fired! joke about this, and then the ensuing 24 hours of fighting over how okay or not okay the joke was before everyone forgets because something worse happened.

4972245
Thanks for helping those in such need, man. You're one of the heroes.

Thank you for the blog and pictures to give this more attention, Horizon.

4972285
He already blamed it on a lack of raking the forests, so I suspect he's not going to chime in again.

I have worked as a volunteer with the Civil Air Patrol for over 43 years, and while we haven't been called up to assist with any kind of post-fire reconaissance and damage assessment on this particular incident, I can definitely identify and appreciate the work you do. Thanks for the clear and cogent sit-rep on the Camp Fire. Semper Vig.

Wanderer D
Moderator

4972245 Dude, my respects. Than you, really, for doing what you did. I have a good friend that's a Park Ranger in California, and he's told me a few things of how things get. It's people that you that make a huge difference.

Thank you, horizon, both for doing the work you do, and for sharing this. And thanks to RCL for putting this interview up.

Thank you horizon. Your doing the Lord's work

My prayers are with you all. Thank you for your bravery and hard work ❤

4972298
funny thing is, trump didnt factor in he reduced the pay for fire departments, when they were already struggling. paradise only had about 20 firefighters to cover paradise AND magaila. most other activity on that came from Orville or chico. if anything, hes to blame

4972241
While I’m not a fan of Cali’s politics, nobody deserves to die like that, or to have their houses and lives destroyed, regardless of their political leanings.

4972487
Why do we have to assign blame? Why can we not come together to help these people instead of pointing fingers and going nowhere?

4972503
because humans always blame others. weather they are right or wrong, they point at others. its the sad part of human nature.

Arn
Arn #25 · 3 weeks ago · · 6 ·

4972514
I think you would get better milage praying salvation for you enemies then doing good....
.....If Celestia kidnapped you thinking a good match for one of her little ponies....
...God would still demand you pray salvation, wisdom and prosperity for your ruler.
Think about that.
Please pray:
for the families.
First responders.
Senators/congressmen.
Goveror.
Presedent.
Displaced pets.

Comment posted by karnazom deleted November 25th

This was pretty close to home here as well. My wife's family all have roots in the Paradise/Magalia area, and one of her uncles is among those who lost their homes.

She's also part of the Shasta county sheriff's S&R in the horse mounted unit. So thanks from here as well for what you all are doing.

4972668
im not a religious person. my entire life i have had one religion or another crammed down my throat. i see flaws and hypocrisy in every religion in the U.S. they all say everyone else is wrong, then say that they dont force religion. they push it onto kids like a fanatic, and the bibel is written every 100 years. translation always messes up, thus allowing opinion to get in. when was the first bible made? how many times has it been rewritten? its not the real thing anymore.

anyhow, this is about the people of paradise. i did say i hope they are able to make it. but im glad the town gets a fresh start.

on a side note... ironic how a town named paradise became hell.

PresentPerfect
Author Interviewer

4972924

anyhow, this is about the people of paradise

Well said. Let's please not bring anything else into this discussion. :)

I'm from way east in Pennsylvania, but my mother goes out West every year to help fight the forest fires in many states. When I had asked if she would be going to help this scenario she said no. She said they weren't sending anyone over to help, "as it seems".
I suppose things happened fast but I'm just confused how when a major tragedy happens and we treat it like a regular thing.
Maybe I'm looking at it wrong or not seeing it clearly but current times are tough, and a lot of the people out there will treat you tougher.
That's why it's always beautiful to see others helping in ways like this. Brings joy to the heart knowing some love to help those who need in hard times, or even not.
You sir along with all of the search and rescue, fire fighters, police and anyone else involved in assisting... I give you my absolute respect and admiration. It might not be much but it the thought that counts.
May light shine true on your path, and darkness stay behind you.

I have some family in California so it’s always a worry when a new fire starts up. Thankfully none were hurt by this fire. I hope those displaced by the fire are able to recover from this disaster and move on.

My aunt was displaced by the fires. She currently has a 5th wheel. I myself am about 80 miles from camp fire.

Ive been talking to people about fireproof homes, notably, monolithic domes. The closest contractor is based in L.A., Dan Hildebrand, and he will be building me one come spring. So if you know someone that was affected by the fires, let them know of these homes.

I live in Stanislaus County, and for half of the month we were covered with smoke.

how sad the fires in California god bless to all

Arn
Arn #35 · 2 weeks ago · · 2 ·

4972924
I'm just saying my suggestion is more productive.
Indeed I read that we/me are more devote if we/me do good. Prayer is one way to visualize and how to solve problems, imagining a hell you can do something about.
And here in this world you can!
Anything I could say, even if I bring up documentation, would be seen as fighting for a side.....so I will try to go out and do good,somewhere, and pray for your salvation and peace from the screaming in your head.🍃

God bless. I hope the fire can be suppressed and stopped if it hasn't already. If we're fortunate, maybe the coming of winter will put it out.

4972278

These people wanted to see Californians suffer because “California’s a liberal state.” It saddens me there are people like this.

That makes them ignorant as well as bigoted: Paradise was a very conservative town, as are many rural places in California.

Honestly, politics shouldn't factor into this. Conservative, liberal, communist or socialist, a human life is a life. And life is worth saving.

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