As Paradise lies in ashes, wildfires claim more lives across California
Eleven dead and tens of thousands evacuated as Donald Trump is condemned for ‘heartless response’ to raging wild fires
Emergency services in the United States were battling last night to prevent multiple forest fires from sweeping across California as hundreds of thousands of people, including Hollywood stars, were evacuated from their homes.
At least 11 people had been confirmed dead yesterday, with scores more reported missing in northern and southern California, and fears that the death toll would rise.
In Los Angeles county, the 35,000acre Woolsey fire, which threatened 75,000 homes, saw more than 200,000 people ordered to leave their homes and businesses. The fire broke out on Thursday and quickly jumped a north-south artery to reach the Santa Monica mountains towards Malibu, where flames driven by winds of up to 50 miles an hour raced down hillsides and through canyons, threatening multimillion-dollar homes.
Thousands of residents took to the Pacific Coast Highway to head south or took refuge on beaches, along with their horses and other pets. Some of the evacuation orders were for residents within the city of Los Angeles, specifically in the West Hills area.
About 500 miles to the north, nine people were found dead in and around the northern California town of Paradise, where more than 6,700 homes and businesses were burned down. The flames descended on Paradise so quickly that many were forced to abandon their cars and run for their lives down the only road through the mountain town.
“This event was the worst-case scenario,” said Butte county sheriff Kory Honea. “It was the event we have feared for a long time. Regrettably, not everybody made it out.”
“The fire was so close I could feel it in my car through rolled-up windows,” said Rita Miller, who fled Paradise with her disabled mother. On the town’s outskirts, Patrick Knuthson, a fourth-generation resident, said only two of the 22 homes on his street were still standing – his and a neighbour’s. “The fire burned from one house to the next house until they were pretty much all gone,” Knuthson said. “I lost my home in 2008, and it’s something you can’t really describe until you go through it.”
President Trump blamed the fires on forest mismanagement and threatened to withdraw related federal funding. “There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor,” he tweeted.
“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 added.
Trump’s comments were described as “an absolutely heartless response” by the singer Katy Perry, who lives in the Hollywood Hills. “There aren’t even politics involved,” she said on Twitter. “Just good American families losing their homes as you tweet, evacuating into shelters.”
Perry had earlier praised the firefighters who were working to tackle the blaze, posting: “Immense gratitude to all the brave first responders out there putting their lives on the line for so many families.”
Among those forced to flee were Kim Kardashian, who urged people to “pray for” her home city of Calabasas, near Malibu. “Just landed back home and had one hour to pack up and evacuate our home. I pray everyone is safe,” she wrote on Instagram.
Her husband, the rapper Kanye West, said their family was now safe.
Actor Will Smith also said he was fleeing his home in Calabasas. In a post on Instagram, Smith said: “The smoke is really close now and for the first time I can see fire. Our house is right there. We are not in the evacuation zone but I don’t like it so we are going to go.”
Lady Gaga revealed her concerns for her property and hailed the firefighters and emergency services as “true heroes”. She tweeted: “I am thinking so deeply for everyone who is suffering today from these abominable fires & grieving the loss of their homes or loved ones. I’m sitting here with many of you wondering if my home will burst into flames. All we can do is pray together & for each other. God Bless You.”
The blaze also threatened parts of nearby Thousand Oaks, where a gunman killed 12 people last week in a shooting rampage.
One Direction star Niall Horan urged people to leave the area, tweeting: “If you live in Thousand Oaks/Malibu area, please evacuate. The fires are at 0% containment and are getting more wild as the minutes pass.”
BELOW Gabi and Jonah Frank fear for their home as fire engulfs Malibu.
RIGHT Burnt-out cars in the town of Paradise in northern California. ABOVE CENTRE Firefighters push down the wall of a building in Paradise.
ABOVE A firefighter tackles the blaze at a home in Malibu.