Par­adise burns to the ground

The West Australian - - WORLD -

A fast-mov­ing wild­fire has dev­as­tated a North­ern Cal­i­for­nia town of 26,000 peo­ple, with au­thor­i­ties un­sure of the ca­su­al­ties as they strug­gled to con­tain 50m-high flames.

Driven by strong winds and dry con­di­tions, the blaze roared through the town of Par­adise, about 240km north-east of San Fran­cisco, forc­ing the pop­u­la­tion to flee in a chaotic mass evac­u­a­tion.

Fire ripped through res­i­den­tial ar­eas and flames leapt from hospi­tals and schools, ac­cord­ing to a wit­ness who saw a car deal­er­ship go up in flames on a street clogged with burnt cars.

“The town is dev­as­tated, ev­ery­thing is de­stroyed,” Cal­i­for­nia De­part­ment of Forestry and Fire Pro­tec­tion spokesman Scott Ma­clean, said. “There’s noth­ing much left stand­ing.”

The town of Chico, pop­u­la­tion 93,000, could be next as flames were driven west­ward by 56km/h winds, Butte County Fire Chief Dar­ren Read said.

“We have re­ceived re­ports of some fa­tal­i­ties but they have not yet been ver­i­fied,” he said.

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