Wild­fires sweep through Cal­i­for­nia, killing at least 5

The Telegraph (Macon) - - Front Page - BY THOMAS FULLER, MATTHEW HAAG AND JEN­NIFER ME­D­INA

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, adding that they 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.

Wild­fires like the lat­est ones have long been a threat in Cal­i­for­nia, but their im­pact has never been greater as more ar­eas are de­vel­oped. Over the sum­mer, a sig­nif­i­cant sec­tion of North­ern Cal­i­for­nia was burned by the largest fire on record, the Men­do­cino Com­plex Fire. And last year the state’s most de­struc­tive fire on record, the Tubbs Fire, tore through Sonoma and Napa coun­ties, killing 22 peo­ple and de­stroy­ing thou­sands of homes.

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, 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.

“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. On Thurs­day, he de­clared an emer­gency in north­ern Butte County and asked Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump for fed­eral as­sis­tance.

On Fri­day morn­ing near Par­adise, black smoke eclipsed the sun, leav­ing the area in near-night-time con­di­tions. The air was thick with the smell of burn­ing tim­ber and scrub veg­e­ta­tion. Butte County of­fi­cials re­ported that evac­u­a­tion cen­ters were fill­ing up.

McLean, the deputy forestry chief, said Par­adise, a forested re­tire­ment com­mu­nity of 27,000 peo­ple, was dec­i­mated Thurs­day.

McLean, who res­cued a lone, older woman rolling down a road in her wheel­chair, de­scribed a fran­tic ef­fort to evac­u­ate Par­adise, es­pe­cially its older res­i­dents.

“We started load­ing up buses as best we could,” he said. “It’s phe­nom­e­nal how fast the fire spread.”

In South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, thick col­umns of smoke rose into the skies as the Woolsey Fire burned 10,000 acres west of Los An­ge­les. Res­i­dents in more than 75,000 homes in Ven­tura and Los An­ge­les coun­ties have been told to evac­u­ate.

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

As­sisted-liv­ing fa­cil­i­ties rushed to move res­i­dents. At Atria Grand Oaks in Thou­sand Oaks, buses were brought in early Fri­day to move res­i­dents to two of the com­pany’s other fa­cil­i­ties in the Los An­ge­les area. A few miles away, of­fi­cials at the Hill­crest Royale Re­tire­ment fa­cil­ity in Thou­sand Oaks de­cided around 10 a.m. Fri­day that about 110 res­i­dents would be moved, even though the fire re­mained off in the dis­tance. Em­ploy­ees were try­ing to alert the fam­i­lies of res­i­dents.

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.

“We have strong gusty winds up to 50 miles an hour,” said Bon­nie Bartling, a spe­cial­ist with the Na­tional Weather Ser­vice in Ox­nard, a city west of Los An­ge­les, which has also been threat­ened by fire. “We have ex­tremely dry fu­els and low rel­a­tive hu­midi­ties. It’s a bad com­bi­na­tion.”

The Woolsey Fire de­liv­ered a one-two punch for Thou­sand Oaks, ig­nit­ing just hours af­ter a gun­man opened fire in­side a pop­u­lar coun­try mu­sic bar in the city on Wed­nes­day night and killed 12 peo­ple.

On Fri­day morn­ing, peo­ple who had fled their homes gath­ered in a shel­ter set up at the Thou­sand Oaks Teen Cen­ter, which was used the day be­fore as a meet­ing place for fam­i­lies and friends of shoot­ing vic­tims. Some slept on cots, while oth­ers hud­dled around a tele­vi­sion to watch the lat­est news about the fire.

Res­i­dents in two cities in the north, In­skip and Ster­ling, were told Fri­day morn­ing to evac­u­ate. And af­ter the Woolsey Fire jumped the free­way and quickly ex­panded up a hill on the other side, au­thor­i­ties in Ven­tura County shut down a sec­tion of High­way 101, a ma­jor artery in the re­gion.

NEAL WA­TERS TNS

The Camp Fire rages through Par­adise, Calif., in Butte County late Thurs­day. Dozens of busi­nesses and home were de­stroyed as the fire moved faster than fire­fight­ers could re­act to it. In South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, mean­while, thou­sands fled from an­other fire.

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