Wild­fires rav­age both ends of Cal­i­for­nia; 5 deaths re­ported

The Olympian - - Front Page - BY THOMAS FULLER, JEN­NIFER ME­D­INA AND JOSE A. DEL REAL

Even in a state hard­ened to the rav­ages of wild­fires, the in­fer­nos that raged at both ends of Cal­i­for­nia on Fri­day were over­pow­er­ing.

Mal­ibu man­sions burned. Five peo­ple died in their cars in a re­tire­ment com­mu­nity called Par­adise. And in the neigh­bor­hood in Thou­sand Oaks where a gun­man had killed 12 peo­ple in a crowded bar ear­lier in the week, sur­vivors now fled the flames.

The fire-prone state was bat­tling three ma­jor fires, one in the north­ern Sierra and two west of Los An­ge­les. In the north­ern town of Par­adise, the ru­ins of houses and busi­nesses smol­dered through­out the day, while in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, tens of thou­sands of res­i­dents fled their homes and jammed onto high­ways. Ex­otic lemurs and par­rots were packed up and car­ried away to safety as fires ringed the Los An­ge­les Zoo in Grif­fith Park.

“It’s phe­nom­e­nal how fast the fire spread,” said Scott McLean, deputy chief of the Cal­i­for­nia De­part­ment of Forestry and Fire Pro­tec­tion, said of the fire in Par­adise, where he had res­cued a lone, older woman rolling down a road in her wheel­chair Thurs­day. As fire­fight­ers strug­gled to con­tain the flames, and as a thick blan­ket of smoke turned day into night, McLean said he feared the death toll would rise higher. Aban­doned cars on a cen­tral street were ev­i­dence that many had fled the fe­ro­ciously fast fire on foot.

It was too early to know how many of them made it out of Par­adise alive.

In Thou­sand Oaks, there was grief com­pounded by grief. Just as res­i­dents were com­ing to terms with a shoot­ing at a coun­try mu­sic bar, the wind-driven fires swept thou­sands of res­i­dents from their homes.

Dy­lan McNey, a 22-year-old car­pen­ter, was a triple sur­vivor. McNey has lived through two mass shoot­ings just a year apart:

first, at the county mu­sic fes­ti­val in Las Ve­gas, then once again at the Border­line Bar & Grill in Thou­sand Oaks this week. McNey used to work as a se­cu­rity guard at the Border­line and said he is there at least a cou­ple of times a week.

Although his friends had all sur­vived the Las Ve­gas shoot­ing, a woman he helped to es­cape even­tu­ally died of her wounds, he said. Six of his friends were killed at the Border­line shoot­ing.

On Thurs­day af­ter­noon, he gath­ered at his house with sev­eral friends so they could be to­gether in their grief. When they re­ceived an evac­u­a­tion or­der, his mother and sis­ter left. But McNey de­cided to stay put, along with his fa­ther, a for­mer fire­fighter, and watched the fire from their back­yard.

“We had a good view from where it was start­ing,” he said.

Bill Vano, a Thou­sand Oaks res­i­dent who was evac­u­ated as the fire ap­proached, said he felt whip­sawed.

“It’s a lot real fast – I don’t know how to process it,” Vano said. “I’m con­fused, walk­ing around in a fog right now.”

In Par­adise, emer­gency crews looked for the miss­ing, an en­deavor com­pli­cated by the fire’s con­tin­ued strength, said Me­gan McMann, a co­or­di­na­tor with the Butte County Sher­iff’s Of­fice.

The bod­ies of five peo­ple were found “in ve­hi­cles that were over­come” by the flames, Sher­iff Kory L. Honea of Butte County said, adding that they had been so badly burned, they could not im­me­di­ately be iden­ti­fied. A sixth body was found Fri­day, but of­fi­cials said the cir­cum­stances of that death were still un­clear.

Cal­i­for­nia’s gov­er­nor­elect, Gavin New­som, de­clared a state of emer­gency Fri­day in Los An­ge­les and Ven­tura coun­ties. On Thurs­day, he de­clared an emer­gency in north­ern Butte County and asked Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump for fed­eral as­sis­tance.

More than 1.4 mil­lion acres have burned so far this year in the state, said McLean, the Cal Fire deputy chief, roughly equal to the to­tals from the very de­struc­tive year of 2017.

And while the strong winds known as Santa Ana con­tributed to the big­ger fires, the link with cli­mate change is in­ex­tri­ca­ble, said Park Wil­liams, a bio­cli­ma­tol­o­gist at Columbia Uni­ver­sity’s La­mont-Do­herty Earth Ob­ser­va­tory.

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.

The Na­tional Park Ser­vice said Fri­day that West­ern Ranch, a movie set built by Paramount Pic­tures in Agoura, in the hills out­side Los An­ge­les, had burned down.

Thick columns of smoke rose into the azure South­ern Cal­i­for­nia skies as the Woolsey Fire burned 14,000 acres west of Los An­ge­les. Res­i­dents in more than 75,000 homes in Ven­tura and Los An­ge­les coun­ties were told to evac­u­ate.

The fire shut down the 101 free­way, a ma­jor trans­porta­tion artery con­nect­ing Los An­ge­les with points north.

NEAL WA­TERS TNS

The Camp Fire rages through the town of Par­adise, Calif., in Butte County late Thurs­day. Dozens of busi­nesses and homes were de­stroyed as the fire moved faster than fire­fight­ers could re­act to it. The blaze had burned more than 70,000 acres, au­thor­i­ties said.

AL SEIB TNS

Fire smol­ders in a de­stroyed home in Thou­sand Oaks, Calif., Fri­day. Res­i­dents in more than 75,000 homes in the area were evac­u­ated.

JENNA SCHOENEFELD NYT

Smoke from the Woolsey Fire looms above High­way 101 in Thou­sand Oaks, Calif., on Fri­day morn­ing.

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