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

The Observer - - News - Jamie Doward & agen­cies

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.”

Reuters

BE­LOW Gabi and Jonah Frank fear for their home as fire en­gulfs Mal­ibu.

AFP AFP

RIGHT Burnt-out cars in the town of Par­adise in north­ern Cal­i­for­nia. ABOVE CEN­TRE Fire­fight­ers push down the wall of a build­ing in Par­adise.

AP

ABOVE A fire­fighter tack­les the blaze at a home in Mal­ibu.

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