California wildfires kill at least 5 people
As wildfires swept over a large swath of California on Friday, authorities said at least five people had been killed in a blaze that decimated a retirement community in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada.
The state is battling three major fires, one in the northern Sierra and two west of Los Angeles. In the northern town of Paradise, the ruins of homes and businesses smoldered Friday, while in Southern California, tens of thousands of residents west of Los Angeles fled their homes and jammed onto highways.
The bodies of five people were found in Paradise “in vehicles that were overcome” by the flames, Sheriff Kory L. Honea of Butte County said, and the bodies had been so badly burned they could not immediately be identified.
Firefighters in Chico, west of Paradise, were on the outskirts of the city, trying to push the fire away from homes and subdivisions. The blaze, called the Camp Fire, has burned more than 70,000 acres and is only 5 percent controlled, authorities said.
In Southern California, authorities ordered the complete evacuation of Malibu, the affluent community that is home to many Hollywood celebrities, as the fire raced through the hills and canyons above the Pacific Ocean. No part of the fire was under control, according to the Ventura County Fire Department.
A separate fire in Griffith Park, near Burbank and Glendale, and not far from downtown Los Angeles, forced the temporarily evacuation of some animals from the Los Angeles Zoo on the edge of the park.
More than 1.4 million acres have burned so far this year in the state, said Scott McLean, deputy chief of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. That’s roughly equal to the totals from the very destructive year of 2017.
And the strong winds known as Santa Ana contributed to the bigger fires, but the link with climate change is inextricable, said Park Williams, a bioclimatologist at Columbia University’s LamontDoherty Earth Observatory.
“It’s once again, in California the perfect recipe for fire,” Williams said. “You get a big Santa Ana wind event in the fall before the first winter rain comes. You’ve got a lot of people who are always creating potential fires by lighting fires either on purpose or on accident.
“And then behind the scenes of all of this, you’ve got temperatures that are about 2 to 3 degrees Fahrenheit warmer now than they would’ve been without global warming.”
California’s governorelect, Gavin Newsom, declared a state of emergency Friday in Los Angeles and Ventura counties.
Fire smolders in a destroyed home in Thousand Oaks, Calif., Friday morning.