Fire destroys Paradise, killing 9 residents
No one is left in Paradise. Abandoned, charred vehicles clutter the main thoroughfare, evidence of the panicked evacuation a day earlier as a wildfire tore through the Northern California community.
Nine people have been found dead. Entire neighborhoods are leveled. The business district is destroyed. In one 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.
The blaze that started Thursday outside the hilly town of Paradise has grown to 156 square miles and destroyed more than 6,700 buildings, almost all of them homes, making it California’s most destructive wildfire since recordkeeping began. But crews have made gains and the fire is partially contained, officials said Saturday.
The dead were found inside their cars and outside vehicles or homes after a desperate evacuation that Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea called “the worstcase scenario.” Their identities were not yet known.
“It is what we feared for a long time,” Honea said, noting that there was no time to go door to door.
Fires were also burning in Southern California, where a blaze that tore through Malibu mansions and working-class suburban homes in Southern California’s hills and canyons killed two people and had more than doubled in size by Saturday.
President Donald Trump issued an emergency declaration providing federal funding for Butte, Ventura and Los Angeles counties. He later threatened to withhold federal payments to California, claiming its forest management is “so poor.”
Trump tweeted Saturday that “there is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly fires in California.” Trump said “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!”
Pacific Gas & Electric Co. reported to state regulators that it experienced a problem on an electrical transmission line near the site of the fire minutes before it broke out. The company had canceled plans to cut off power to the area because of high winds before flames ignited.
The fire in Paradise, about 180 miles northeast of San Francisco, was still burning out of control.
Vehicles gutted by fire line a road leading from Paradise, Calif., on Friday. As authorities assessed the damage wrought by the Camp wildfire in this forested retirement community of about 27,000, one state official described the town as “razed.”