Fire dec­i­mates Par­adise, Cal­i­for­nia

The Sunday Independent - - WORLD - AP

ABAN­DONED, charred ve­hi­cles clut­tered the empty thor­ough­fare of Par­adise, Cal­i­for­nia, ev­i­dence of the pan­icked evac­u­a­tion a day ear­lier.

Most of its build­ings are in ruin. En­tire neigh­bour­hoods are lev­elled. The busi­ness district is de­stroyed.

In a sin­gle day, this Sierra Ne­vada foothill town of 27000 founded in the 1800s, was largely in­cin­er­ated by flames that moved so fast there was noth­ing fire­fight­ers could do.

Only a day af­ter it be­gan on Thurs­day, the blaze that started out­side the hilly town of Par­adise had grown on Fri­day to nearly 360km² and de­stroyed more than 6700 struc­tures, al­most all of them homes, mak­ing it Cal­i­for­nia’s most de­struc­tive wild­fire since record­keep­ing be­gan.

Nine peo­ple have been found dead, some in­side their cars and oth­ers out­side ve­hi­cles or homes af­ter a des­per­ate evac­u­a­tion that Butte County Sher­iff Kory Honea called “the worst-case sce­nario”. Their iden­ti­ties were not yet known.

“It is what we feared for a long time,” Honea said, not­ing there was no time to knock on res­i­dents’ doors one-by-one.

Pres­i­dent Donald Trump is­sued an emer­gency dec­la­ra­tion pro­vid­ing fed­eral funds for Butte, Ven­tura and Los An­ge­les coun­ties. He later threat­ened to with­hold fed­eral pay­ments to Cal­i­for­nia, claim­ing its for­est man­age­ment was “so poor”.

Trump said via Twit­ter yes­ter­day that “there is no rea­son for th­ese mas­sive, deadly and costly fires in Cal­i­for­nia”.

He said “bil­lions of dol­lars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all be­cause of gross mis­man­age­ment of the forests. Remedy now, or no more Fed pay­ments!”

The fire in Par­adise, about 290km north-east of San Fran­cisco, was still burn­ing out of con­trol. |

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