Par­adise lost in dev­as­tat­ing fire

Otago Daily Times - - WORLD -

PAR­ADISE: A fast­mov­ing wild­fire dev­as­tated a North­ern Cal­i­for­nia town of 26,000 peo­ple yesterday, leav­ing au­thor­i­ties un­sure of the ca­su­al­ties as they strug­gled to con­tain 45m flames.

Driven by strong winds and dry con­di­tions, the blaze, dubbed the Camp Fire, roared through the town of Par­adise, about 240km north of Sacra­mento, 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 burned­out ve­hi­cles and an aban­doned po­lice cruiser.

‘‘The town is dev­as­tated. Every­thing is de­stroyed,’’ said Cal­i­for­nia Depart­ment of Forestry and Fire Pro­tec­tion (Cal Fire) spokesman Scott Maclean. ‘‘There’s noth­ing much left stand­ing.’’

‘‘We have re­ceived re­ports of some fa­tal­i­ties. Those re­ports have not yet been ver­i­fied,’’ Butte County Sher­iff Kory Honea told a news con­fer­ence.

The fire was the fiercest of sev­eral wind­driven blazes across Cal­i­for­nia yesterday, dur­ing one of the state’s worst years for wild­fires.

‘‘The whole town is burn­ing,’’ Bob Van Camp, a Par­adise res­i­dent who es­caped on his mo­tor­bike, told lo­cal TV chan­nel Ac­tion News Now. ‘‘We had to ride through flames to get here,’’ he said from the road be­tween Par­adise and Chico.

The town has lim­ited es­cape routes and traf­fic ac­ci­dents turned roads into grid­lock. Res­i­dents aban­doned ve­hi­cles and ran from the flames car­ry­ing chil­dren and pets. One woman stuck in traf­fic went into labour, the En­ter­prise­Record news­pa­per re­ported.

The blaze be­gan early yesterday and had charred 8093ha by the af­ter­noon, said Cal Fire spokesman Rick Carhart.

Res­cuers used a bull­dozer to push aban­doned cars out of the way to reach Feather River Hos­pi­tal and evac­u­ate pa­tients as flames en­gulfed the build­ing, Butte County Su­per­vi­sor Doug Teeter told reporters.

The hos­pi­tal was de­stroyed, op­er­a­tor Dig­nity Health said.

Fire­fight­ing air­craft were un­able to op­er­ate due to high winds, which were fore­cast to strengthen last night.

Maclean said it could be days be­fore au­thor­i­ties knew the ex­tent of fa­tal­i­ties and de­struc­tion.

Late last night, the fire had ad­vanced to the out­skirts of Chico, a city of 93,000 about 145km north of Sacra­mento, forc­ing thou­sands to flee. — Reuters

In­ferno: A Par­adise home is en­gulfed in flames.PHOTO: REUTERS

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.