N. Cal­i­for­nia wild­fire kills 5

Blaze quadru­ples in size

Toronto Sun - - NEWS -

PAR­ADISE, Calif. — A wild­fire that moved so fast fire­fight­ers didn’t even try to stop it killed five peo­ple, au­thor­i­ties said Fri­day as the blaze quadru­pled in size af­ter lev­el­ling much of a North­ern Cal­i­for­nia town of nearly 30,000 peo­ple.

Only a day af­ter it be­gan, the fire near the town of Par­adise had grown to nearly 285 square km, and in­ves­ti­ga­tors found five peo­ple dead in ve­hi­cles that were torched by the flames.

“There was re­ally no fire­fight in­volved,” said Capt. Scott McLean of the Cal­i­for­nia Depart­ment of Forestry and Fire Pro­tec­tion, ex­plain­ing that crews gave up at­tack­ing the flames and in­stead helped peo­ple evac­u­ate. “Th­ese fire­fight­ers were in the res­cue mode all day yes­ter­day.”

The en­tire town was or­dered evac­u­ated, set­ting off a des­per­ate ex­o­dus in which many mo­torists got struck in grid­locked traf­fic and aban­doned their ve­hi­cles to flee on foot. Peo­ple re­ported see­ing much of the com­mu­nity go up in flames, in­clud­ing homes, super­mar­kets, busi­nesses, restau­rants, schools and a re­tire­ment cen­tre.

The dead were found in the same part of Par­adise, the Butte County Sher­iff’s Of­fice said.

Ru­ral areas fared lit­tle bet­ter. Many homes have propane tanks that were ex­plod­ing amid the flames. “They were go­ing off like bombs,” said Karen Au­day, who es­caped to a nearby town.

McLean es­ti­mated that the lost build­ings num­bered in the thou­sands in Par­adise, about 290 km north­east of San Fran­cisco.

“Pretty much the com­mu­nity of Par­adise is de­stroyed. It’s that kind of dev­as­ta­tion,” he said.

With fires burn­ing in both North­ern and South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, the di­rec­tor of the Gover­nor’s Of­fice of Emer­gency Ser­vices put the num­ber of peo­ple forced from their homes at 157,000.

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