NorCal town leveled in less than a day
PARADISE (AP) — Not a single resident of Paradise can be seen anywhere in the town after most of them fled the burning Northern California community that may be lost forever. Abandoned, charred vehicles cluttered the main thoroughfare, evidence of the panicked evacuation a day earlier.
Most of its buildings are in ruin. Entire neighborhoods are leveled. The business district is destroyed. In a single day, this Sierra Nevada foothill town of 27,000 founded in the 1800s was largely incinerated by flames that moved so fast there was nothing firefighters could do.
Only a day after it began, the blaze that started outside the hilly town of Paradise had grown on Friday to nearly 140 square miles and destroyed more than 6,700 structures, almost all of them homes, making it California’s most destructive wildfire since record-keeping began.
Nine people have been found dead, some inside their cars and others outside vehicles or homes after a desperate evacuation that Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea called “the worst-case scenario.” Their identities were not yet known.
“It is what we feared for a long time,” Honea said, noting there was no time to knock on residents’ doors one by one.
With fires also burning in Southern California, state officials put the total number of people forced from their homes at more than 200,000.
President Donald Trump issued an emergency declaration providing federal funds for Butte, Ventura and Los Angeles counties.
The fire in Paradise, about 180 miles northeast of San Francisco, was still burning out of control on Friday.
A thick, yellow haze hung in the air, giving the appearance of twilight in the middle of the day. Some of the “majestic oaks” the town boasts of on its website still have fires burning in their trunks. Thick wooden posts holding up guardrails continued to burn.
Sonoma Valley firefighters inspect burned cars to make sure they are clear of human remains following a wildfire in Paradise, California on Friday.