Thou­sands flee fast-mov­ing fire in Butte County

Merced Sun-Star - - News - BY DON THOMP­SON

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.

NOAH BERGER AP

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.

NOAH BERGER AP

Med­i­cal per­son­nel evac­u­ate pa­tients Thurs­day as the Feather River Hos­pi­tal burns while the Camp Fire rages through Par­adise.

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