Five dead as wild­fires race across Cal­i­for­nia

Rock­lin po­lice: ‘A whole town was wiped out in 24 hours’

USA TODAY Weekend Extra - - FRONT PAGE - Doug Stan­glin and Chris Wood­yard

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.

JAY CALDERON/USA TO­DAY NET­WORK

A fire­fighter works at a burn­ing home in Oak Park, Calif., Fri­day.

JAY CALDERON/USA TO­DAY NET­WORK

Tina Weeks evac­u­ates af­ter her neigh­bors’ house be­came fully en­gulfed by the Woolsey Fire in Oak Park, Calif., early Fri­day.

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