Hun­dreds of thou­sands forced to flee wild­fires


The Freeman - - WORLD -

Nine peo­ple were killed and hun­dreds of thou­sands or­dered to evac­u­ate as wild­fires raged Satur­day across Cal­i­for­nia, with one rapidly spread­ing blaze threat­en­ing the re­sort of Mal­ibu, home to Hol­ly­wood stars.

The fa­tal­i­ties were re­ported in a mas­sive late-sea­son in­ferno in the town of Par­adise, in Butte County north of the state cap­i­tal Sacra­mento, where some 6,700 struc­tures went up in flames - of­fi­cially be­com­ing Cal­i­for­nia's most de­struc­tive fire on record.

The fast-mov­ing blaze, which au­thor­i­ties have named the "Camp Fire", broke out Thurs­day morn­ing. Fanned by strong winds, it has scorched 90,000 acres (36,400 hectares) and is only five per­cent con­tained, the Cal­i­for­nia Fire De­part­ment (Cal Fire) said late Fri­day.

Other large fires raged in south­ern Cal­i­for­nia, in­clud­ing one just north of Los An­ge­les and an­other in Ven­tura County near Thou­sand Oaks, where a Ma­rine Corps vet­eran shot dead 12 peo­ple in a coun­try mu­sic bar on Wed­nes­day night.

"The mag­ni­tude of de­struc­tion we have seen is re­ally un­be­liev­able and heart­break­ing and our hearts go to every­body who has been af­fected by this," said Mark Ghi­lar­ducci, the di­rec­tor of the Cal­i­for­nia Gov­er­nor's Of­fice of Emer­gency Ser­vices.

Gov­er­nor-elect Gavin New­som de­clared a state of emer­gency to pro­vide as­sis­tance to the fire-hit ar­eas.

Late Fri­day Butte County Sher­iff Korey Honea said it was his "sad duty" to up­date the Camp Fire death toll to nine.

"I don't have all of the de­tails be­cause we have in­ves­ti­ga­tors out on the field" try­ing to reach the lo­ca­tions where ca­su­al­ties were re­ported, Honea told a press con­fer­ence.

But he did say that four peo­ple were found in­side a ve­hi­cle in the Par­adise area, while an­other was found nearby out­side the ve­hi­cle. Three more were found out­side a res­i­dence, and one in­side a house.

Dozens of other peo­ple were re­ported miss­ing.

Res­i­dents who es­caped Par­adise posted har­row­ing videos to so­cial me­dia as they drove through tun­nels of swirling smoke and orange flames to out­run the wild­fire.

The flames de­stroyed hun­dreds of homes, a hos­pi­tal, a gas sta­tion, sev­eral restau­rants and nu­mer­ous ve­hi­cles, of­fi­cials said.

Manda­tory evac­u­a­tion or­ders were is­sued for more than 52,000 peo­ple in the scenic area in the foothills of the Sierra Ne­vada Moun­tains.

"The whole lower side of Par­adise is to­tally en­gulfed in flames right now," Kevin Win­stead, a res­i­dent of nearby Ma­galia, told KIEM TV. "All of it is en­gulfed in flames right now.

"Not one home will be left stand­ing," he said. "I'm dev­as­tated."

"We're just hop­ing that our brand new home that we were hop­ing to move into to­mor­row is not burned to the ground," Win­stead said.

In south­ern Cal­i­for­nia, au­thor­i­ties said some 200,000 peo­ple are un­der evac­u­a­tion or­ders.

The Ven­tura County Fire De­part­ment said the "Woolsey Fire" had burned around 35,000 acres, was not con­tained, and that evac­u­a­tion or­ders were is­sued for some 88,000 homes in the county and neigh­bor­ing Los An­ge­les County.

"It is crit­i­cal that res­i­dents pay close at­ten­tion to evac­u­a­tion or­ders," the Los An­ge­les County Fire De­part­ment said on Twit­ter, "this is a very dan­ger­ous wind-driven fire."

The "Woolsey Fire" has jumped High­way 101 near the town of Agoura Hills and por­tions of the main coastal north­south artery have been shut down, trig­ger­ing manda­tory evac­u­a­tions, in­clud­ing the en­tire city of Mal­ibu.

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