Hundreds Of Thousands Flee Flames
Celebrities among 157,000 evacuees in state, officials say
FIREFIGHTERS monitor a burning home in the town of Magalia, in Northern California, as the Camp Fire moves through the area on Friday. Fueled by high winds and low humidity, the rapidly spreading fire, which started near Paradise, Calif., north of Sacramento, grew to nearly 110 square miles and was burning out of control. Nine people were killed. With fires also burning in Southern California, state officials put the total number of people forced from their homes statewide at 157,000. Story,
PARADISE, Calif. — A powerful wildfire in Northern California incinerated most of a town of about 30,000 people with flames that moved so fast there was nothing firefighters could do, authorities said Friday. Nine people died, including several who were found in burned vehicles.
Only a day after it began, the blaze near the town of Paradise had grown to nearly 110 square miles and was burning out of control.
“There was really no firefight involved,” Capt. Scott McLean of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said, explaining that crews gave up attacking the flames and instead helped people get out alive. “These firefighters were in the rescue mode all day yesterday.”
Butte County Sheriff Korey Honea said his office has taken 35 reports of missing people.
With fires also burning in Southern California, state officials put the total number of people forced from their homes at 157,000. Evacuation orders included the city of Malibu, which is home to 13,000, among them some of Hollywood’s biggest stars.
President Donald Trump issued an emergency declaration providing federal funds for Butte, Ventura and Los Angeles counties.
When Paradise was evacuated, the order set off a desperate exodus in which many motorists got stuck 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 center.
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 180 miles northeast of San Francisco.
The massive blaze spread north Friday, prompting officials to order the evacua- tion of Stirling City and Inskip, two communities north of Paradise along the Sierra Nevada foothills.
The wind-driven flames also spread to the west and reached Chico, a city of 90,000 people. Firefighters were able to stop the fire at the edge of the city, Cal Fire Capt. Bill Murphy said.
There were no signs of life Friday on the road to Paradise except for the occasional bird chirp. A thick, yellow haze from the fire hung in the air and gave the appearance of twilight in the middle of the day.
Strong winds had blown the blackened needles on some evergreens straight to one side. A scorched car with its doors open sat on the shoulder.
Evacuees from Paradise sat in stunned silence Friday outside a Chico church where they took refuge the night before. They all had harrowing tales of a slowmotion escape from a fire so close they could feel the heat inside their vehicles as they sat stuck in a terrifying traffic jam.
When the order came to evacuate, it was like the entire town of 27,000 residents decided to leave at once, they said. Fire surrounded the evacuation route, and drivers panicked. Some crashed and others left their vehicles by the roadside.
“It was just a wall of fire on each side of us, and we could hardly see the road in front of us,” police Officer Mark Bass said.
Concerned friends and family posted anxious messages on Twitter and other sites, saying they were looking for loved ones, particularly seniors who lived at retirement homes or alone.
About 20 of the same deputies who were helping to find and rescue people lost their own homes, Sheriff Kory Honea said.
“There are times when you have such rapid-moving fires no amount of planning is going to result in a perfect scenario, and that’s what we had to deal with here,” Honea told the Action News Network.
In Southern California, a wildfire scorched a historic movie site recently used by the HBO series “Westworld,” claimed homes and prompted the total evacuation of the celebrity enclave Malibu.
Kim Kardashian West, Scott Baio, Rainn Wilson and Guillermo del Toro are among numerous celebrities forced to evacuate their homes, in some cases hurriedly trying to arrange transport for their horses. Some, like del Toro and Caitlyn Jenner, did not know the fate of their homes, but the wind-driven wildfire has destroyed the home of “Dr. Strange” director Scott Derrickson and the historic Paramount Ranch where shows like “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman” were filmed.
Actress Alyssa Milano said her home is “in jeopardy.”
The blaze started Thursday night and by Friday had pushed toward Malibu and the Pacific Ocean, prompting evacuations in Malibu, Calabasas, Aguora Hills and other nearby areas.
A wildfire engulfs a home Friday near Malibu Lake in Malibu, Calif. One fire in Southern California scorched a historic movie site recently used by the HBO series “Westworld.”