Thousands flee fast-moving fire in Butte County
Tens of thousands of people fled a fast-moving wildfire Thursday in Northern California, some clutching babies and pets as they abandoned vehicles and struck out on foot ahead of the flames that forced the evacuation of an entire town.
Everyone in Paradise, a community of 27,000 about 180 miles northeast of San Francisco, was ordered to get out. As she fled, Gina Oviedo described a devastating scene in which flames engulfed homes, sparked explosions and toppled utility poles.
“Things started exploding,” Oviedo said. “People started getting out of their vehicles and running.”
Authorities were working on a plan to remove patients from a hospital after rescuers had to turn back because of gridlocked traffic.
“It’s a very dangerous and very serious situation,” Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said. “I’m driving through fire as we speak. We’re doing everything we can to get people out of the affected areas.”
Shari Bernacett said her husband tried to get people to leave the Paradise mobile home park they manage and had minutes to evacuate.
He “knocked on doors, yelled and screamed” to alert as many residents as possible, Bernacett said.
“My husband tried his best to get everybody out. The whole hill’s on fire. God help us!” she said before breaking down crying. She and her husband grabbed their dog, jumped in their pickup truck and drove through flames before getting to safety, she said.
Officials were sending as many firefighters as they could, Cal Fire spokesman Rick Carhart said.
“Every engine that we could put on the fire is on the fire right now, and more are coming,” he said. “There are dozens of strike teams that we’re bringing in from all parts of the state.”
The blaze destroyed an unknown number of structures and injured some people, but the extent of the injuries was not immediately known, said Capt. John Gaddie of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
The sheriff confirmed reports that evacuees had to abandon their vehicles.
A home burns Thursday as the Camp Fire rages through Paradise, in Butte County. Tens of thousands of people fled a fast-moving wildfire in Northern California that forced the evacuation of an entire town.
Medical personnel evacuate patients Thursday as the Feather River Hospital burns while the Camp Fire rages through Paradise.