Five killed in wildfire
United States: Victims found in cars after blaze incinerated town
Five people have been found dead in their burnedout vehicles after a wildfire in northern California incinerated most of a town of about 30,000 people.
Only a day after it began, the blaze near the town of Paradise had grown to nearly 110 square miles and was burning completely out of control.
“There was really no firefight involved,” Scott McLean of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said, explaining that crews gave up attacking the flames and instead helped people get out alive. “These firefighters were in the rescue mode all day yesterday.”
With fires also burning in southern California, state officials put the total number of people forced from their homes at 157,000.
Evacuation orders included the entire city of Malibu, which is home to 13,000, among them some of Hollywood’s biggest stars.
When Paradise was evacuated, the order set off a desperate exodus in which many motorists got stuck in gridlocked traffic and abandoned their vehicles to flee on foot.
People reported seeing much of the community go up in flames, including homes, supermarkets, businesses, restaurants, schools and a retirement centre.
Rural areas fared little better. Many homes have propane tanks that were exploding amid the flames. “They were going off like bombs,” said survivor Karen Auday,.
Mr McLean estimated that the lost buildings numbered in the thousands in Paradise, about 180 miles north east of San Francisco.
“Pretty much the community of Paradise is destroyed. It’s that kind of devastation,” he said.
Evacuees from Paradise sat in stunned silence yesterday outside a Chico church where they took refuge the night before. They all had harrowing tales of a slow-motion escape from a fire so close they could feel the heat inside their vehicles as they sat stuck in a terrifying traffic jam.
“It was just a wall of fire on each side of us and we could hardly see the road,” police officer Mark Bass said.
DESTRUCTION: Thousands of buildings have been lost in the fire – with 157,000 people fleeing their homes