11 dead as fires rage on
More than 200,000 Californians forced to flee
MALIBOU LAKE, Calif. — A growing trio of wildfires incinerated large swaths of Northern and Southern California over the past three days, killing 11 people, displacing hundreds of thousands and turning a retirement community called Paradise into acres of ash and charred foundations. The massive Camp Fire north of Sacramento had destroyed some 6,700 structures, becoming the most destructive inferno in a state with a long and calamitous history of fires.
Since Thursday, more than 200,000 Californians have been displaced — greater than the population of the city of Orlando, Fla.
In addition to the dead, dozens have been reported missing. Authorities warned that the property losses would also be staggering. A pair of fires near Los Angeles threatened Malibu mansions and destroyed Paramount Ranch, the filming location of the HBO series Westworld.
Before officials announced the latest grim statistics and rising death toll on Saturday, President Donald Trump fanned an ongoing dispute with California leaders, blaming mismanagement of state resources for the destruction and death.
“There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor,” Trump tweeted Saturday morning. “Billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests. Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!”
Trump blames state
California officials have countered Trump’s claims in the past, saying that ever-intense fires are the result of global warming, which dries up vegetation and turns fireprone areas of the state into a tinderbox.
In Northern California’s Butte County, about 90 miles north of state capital Sacramento, residents described fleeing a catastrophic fire that began on Thursday. The inferno grew with incredible speed, claimed nine lives and turned a sunny day into an end-of-days scene of flames, smoke, sparks and wide destruction.
Officials warned that “red flag” conditions would persist on and off through Monday, hot, dry and windy weather that makes the land ripe for a fire’s spread.
Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea told reporters at a news conference Friday evening that officials had found nine people who had been killed by the fire: Four were found dead in their cars in Paradise, down from the five officials had spoken about earlier; three outside of houses; and two others, one inside a home, and another near a car.
“This event was the worstcase scenario,” Honea said. “It’s the event that we have feared for a long time.”
On Saturday, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Chief John Benedict told The Associated Press that two people have been found dead in the fire zone of a Southern California blaze.
Yuba County Sheriff officers remove a body at the Holly Hills Mobile Estates in Paradise, Calif., yesterday. Nine people were killed in the Paradise blaze.