Five dead as wildfires race across California
Rocklin police: ‘A whole town was wiped out in 24 hours’
MALIBU, Calif. – Raging wildfires across California have killed at least five people and driven 157,000 people from their homes, fire officials said Friday.
Near Los Angeles, the affluent beachside town of Malibu was ordered evacuated as a wind-driven blaze jumped the U.S. 101 Freeway and raced toward the sea.
In Northern California’s Butte County, the sheriff ’s office said investigators found five people dead in vehicles that were torched by the flames of a ferocious wildfire that roared through the town of Paradise. The victims were found in the same area of the devastated retirement community that also lost some 2,000 structures.
“A whole town was wiped out in 24
hours,” Rocklin Police officer Jon Gee said. “It’s crazy.”
Mark Ghilarducci, director of the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, said 157,000 people had been forced from their homes in three major fires in the Golden State, including the Camp Fire that destroyed Paradise.
The blaze, which erupted 80 miles north of Sacramento, quadrupled overnight to nearly 110 square miles, according to fire officials.
In Southern California, some 75,000 homes were ordered evacuated in Ventura and Los Angeles counties, with the Los Angeles County Fire Department tweeting: “imminent threat.”
Ventura County Fire Department Captain Scott Dettorre warned that as the Woolsey Fire crossed the famous Highway 101, a major transportation artery, “it will make its historic and typical run all the way down Pacific Coast Highway, threatening more homes, more property, more lives,” KTLA-TV reported.
Fire officials ordered the evacuation of all 13,000 residents of the community, which stretches 21 miles along the coastline.
By midday, Los Angeles County fire officials said the fire had consumed 22 square miles and was “zero contained.”
The Woolsey Fire had exploded to more than 5 square miles Friday morning and was continuing to grow.
Homeowners fleeing the winddriven blaze around Malibu jammed roadways as the fire crept closer to the wealthy, surfside community, home to numerous movie and TV stars.
As cars snarled Pacific Coast Highway, some residents lined up five deep at a gas station for a last chance to get fuel. All were being directed south toward the safety of Santa Monica. At the Point Dume Village shopping Center north of the famed Malibu pier, business was brisk at a coffee bar, the Cafe De La Plage.
“I am just very unhappy,“said James Collins, 48, from the small community of Cornell. He said he had been evacuated at 4 a.m. but he was taking it in stride, noting the rest of the nation has had its share of natural disasters recently. “Other people have rain. We have fire.”
The fire also destroyed Western Town, a mock Wild West town on the Paramount Ranch that has been used as a movie set since 1927, the National Park Service said. Television shows such as the “The Cisco Kid” and “Dr. Quinn” were also filmed there.
The Woolsey fire was one of three ravaging the state, with the northern California town of Paradise largely destroyed overnight.
A firefighter works at a burning home in Oak Park, Calif., Friday.
Tina Weeks evacuates after her neighbors’ house became fully engulfed by the Woolsey Fire in Oak Park, Calif., early Friday.