Thou­sands flee fast-mov­ing Cal­i­for­nia fire

Medicine Hat News - - WORLD -

PAR­ADISE, Calif. Tens of thou­sands of peo­ple were or­dered to evac­u­ate a fast-mov­ing wild­fire that ex­ploded in size Thurs­day, threat­en­ing sev­eral North­ern Cal­i­for­nia com­mu­ni­ties and forc­ing pan­icked res­i­dents to race to help neigh­bours who had to drive through walls of flames to es­cape.

It was not im­me­di­ately known if there were in­juries or fa­tal­i­ties.

Butte County Sher­iff’s spokes­woman Mi­randa Bow­er­sox said that all of Par­adise, a town of about 27,000 peo­ple 180 miles (290 kilo­me­tres) north­east of San Fran­cisco, was or­dered to evac­u­ate.

“It’s bad,” Butte County Sher­iff Kory Honea told the En­ter­prise-Record. “We’re try­ing to get as many peo­ple out as quickly as pos­si­ble and save as many lives as we can.”

Rick Carhart, a Cal Fire spokesman, said the wild­fire was re­ported at 6:30 a.m., af­fect­ing about 30,000 peo­ple in the towns of Par­adise, Con­cow and other small com­mu­ni­ties.

“The blaze is be­ing driven by fairly strong winds,” Carhart said. “It’s re­ally dry and we have low hu­mid­ity and un­for­tu­nately those are great con­di­tions for a fire to spread.”

Thick grey smoke and ash filled the sky above Par­adise and could be seen from miles away.

The Ad­ven­tist Health Feather River Hospi­tal in Par­adise evac­u­ated all its pa­tients and staff, given its close prox­im­ity to the fire, and trans­ported them safely to hos­pi­tals in neigh­bour­ing towns, said Jill Kin­ney, an Ad­ven­tist Health spokes­woman. Four of the hospi­tal’s em­ploy­ees were briefly trapped in the base­ment and res­cued by Cal­i­for­nia High­way Pa­trol of­fi­cers, Kin­ney said.

En­loe Med­i­cal Cen­ter in nearby Chico re­ceived 24 pa­tients, spokes­woman Jo­lene Fran­cis said. Other pa­tients were taken to Oroville Hospi­tal in the city of Oroville.

Shary Ber­nacett said she and her hus­band tried to get peo­ple to leave the mo­bile home park they man­age in Par­adise and had min­utes to evac­u­ate as flames reached the east side of the town.

Ber­nacett said she and her hus­band “knocked on doors, yelled and screamed” to alert as many of the res­i­dents of 53 mo­bile homes and recre­ational ve­hi­cles as pos­si­ble to leave.

“My hus­band tried his best to get ev­ery­body out. The whole hill’s on fire. God help us!” Ber­nacett said be­fore break­ing down cry­ing.

DAVID LIT­TLE/CHICO EN­TER­PRISE-RECORD VIA AP

The mas­sive plume from the Camp Fire, burn­ing in the Feather River Canyon near Par­adise, Calif., wafts over the Sacra­mento Val­ley as seen from Chico, Calif., on Thurs­day.

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