Californians run from wind-fanned blaze
OROVILLE, Calif. — Tens of thousands of people were ordered to evacuate a fast-moving wildfire that exploded in size Thursday, threatening several Northern California communities and forcing panicked residents to race to help neighbors and drive through walls of flames to escape.
The blaze destroyed an unknown number of structures and injured some civilians, but the extent of their injuries was not immediately known, said John Gaddie, a captain with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
As people fled in cars, some abandoned their vehicles, running from encroaching flames as they held babies and pets, said Gina Oviedo, who described a devastating scene as she evacuated the town of Paradise. Flames were engulfing homes, utility poles were crashing down and things were exploding, she said.
All of Paradise, a town of about 27,000 people 180 miles northeast of San Francisco, was ordered to evacuate, said Butte County Sheriff’s spokesman Miranda Bowersox.
“The blaze is being driven by fairly strong winds,” said Rick Carhart, a spokesman for the fire protection agency. “It’s really dry and we have low humidity — and unfortunately those are great conditions for a fire to spread.”
Smoke from a wildfire blackens the horizon Thursday in Oroville, Calif., as a bulldozer cuts a fire line in a bid to protect a local college.