Cal­i­for­ni­ans run from wind-fanned blaze

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NATIONAL -

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.”

AP/DON THOMP­SON

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.

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