CALIF. WILD­FIRES TURN DEADLY

The Wichita Eagle - - Front Page - BY THOMAS FULLER, MATTHEW HAAG AND JEN­NIFER MED­INA

Thou­sands flee rag­ing wild­fires sweep­ing through South­ern Cal­i­for­nia. Five found dead in charred ve­hi­cles.

As wild­fires swept over a large swath of Cal­i­for­nia on Fri­day, au­thor­i­ties said at least five peo­ple had been killed in a blaze that dec­i­mated a re­tire­ment com­mu­nity in the foothills of the Sierra Ne­vada.

The state is bat­tling three ma­jor fires, one in the north­ern Sierra and two west of Los An­ge­les. In the north­ern town of Par­adise, the ru­ins of homes and busi­nesses smol­dered Fri­day, while in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia tens of thou­sands of res­i­dents west of Los An­ge­les fled their homes and jammed onto high­ways.

The bod­ies of five peo­ple were found in Par­adise “in ve­hi­cles that were over­come” by the flames, Sher­iff Kory L. Honea of Butte County said, adding that they had been so badly burned they could not im­me­di­ately be iden­ti­fied.

Fire­fight­ers in Chico, west of Par­adise, were on the out­skirts of the city, try­ing to push the fire away from homes and sub­di­vi­sions. The blaze, called the Camp Fire, has burned more than 70,000 acres and is only 5 per­cent con­trolled, au­thor­i­ties said.

In South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, au­thor­i­ties or­dered the com­plete evac­u­a­tion of Mal­ibu, the af­flu­ent com­mu­nity that is home to many Hol­ly­wood celebri­ties, as the fire raced through the hills and canyons above the Pa­cific Ocean. No part of the fire was un­der con­trol, ac­cord­ing to the Ven­tura County Fire Depart­ment.

A sep­a­rate fire in Grif­fith Park, near Bur­bank and Glen­dale, and not far from down­town Los An­ge­les, forced the tem­po­rar­ily evac­u­a­tion of some an­i­mals from the Los An­ge­les Zoo on the edge of the park.

Wild­fires like the lat­est ones have long been a threat in Cal­i­for­nia, but their im­pact has never been greater as more ar­eas are de­vel­oped. Over the sum­mer, a sig­nif­i­cant sec­tion of North­ern Cal­i­for­nia was burned by the largest fire on record, the Men­do­cino Com­plex Fire. And last year the state’s most de­struc­tive fire on record, the Tubbs Fire, tore through Sonoma and Napa coun­ties, killing 22 peo­ple and de­stroy­ing thou­sands of homes.

More than 1.4 mil­lion acres have burned so far this year in the state, said Scott McLean, deputy chief of the Cal­i­for­nia Depart­ment of Forestry and Fire Pro­tec­tion, roughly equal to the to­tals from the very de­struc­tive year of 2017.

And while the strong winds known as Santa Ana con­trib­uted to the big­ger fires, the link with cli­mate change is in­ex­tri­ca­ble, said Park Wil­liams, a bio­cli­ma­tol­o­gist at Columbia Univer­sity’s La­mont-Do­herty Earth Ob­ser­va­tory.

“It’s once again in Cal­i­for­nia the per­fect recipe for fire,” Wil­liams said. “You get a big Santa Ana wind event in the fall be­fore the first win­ter rain comes. You’ve got a lot of peo­ple who are al­ways cre­at­ing po­ten­tial fires by light­ing fires ei­ther on pur­pose or on ac­ci­dent.

“And then be­hind the scenes of all of this, you’ve got tem­per­a­tures that are about 2 to 3 de­grees Fahren­heit warmer now than they would’ve been with­out global warm­ing.”

Cal­i­for­nia’s gover­nor­elect, Gavin New­som, de­clared a state of emer­gency Fri­day in Los An­ge­les and Ven­tura coun­ties. On Thurs­day, he de­clared an emer­gency in north­ern Butte County and asked Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump for fed­eral as­sis­tance.

On Fri­day morn­ing near Par­adise, black smoke eclipsed the sun, leav­ing the area in near-night­time con­di­tions. The air was thick with the smell of burn­ing tim­ber and scrub veg­e­ta­tion. Butte County of­fi­cials re­ported that evac­u­a­tion cen­ters were fill­ing up.

While the cause of the fire wasn’t known, Pa­cific Gas & Elec­tric Com­pany told state reg­u­la­tors it ex­pe­ri­enced an out­age on an elec­tri­cal trans­mis­sion line near Par­adise about 15 min­utes be­fore the blaze broke out, the As­so­ci­ated Press re­ported. The com­pany said it later no­ticed dam­age to a trans­mis­sion tower near the town, the AP said.

McLean, the deputy forestry chief, said Par­adise, a forested re­tire­ment com­mu­nity of 27,000 peo­ple, was dec­i­mated Thurs­day.

McLean, who res­cued a lone, older woman rolling down a road in her wheel­chair, de­scribed a fran­tic ef­fort to evac­u­ate Par­adise, es­pe­cially its older res­i­dents.

“We started load­ing up buses as best we could,” he said. “It’s phe­nom­e­nal how fast the fire spread.”

In South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, thick col­umns of smoke rose into the skies as the Woolsey Fire burned 10,000 acres west of Los An­ge­les. Res­i­dents in more than 75,000 homes in Ven­tura and Los An­ge­les coun­ties have been told to evac­u­ate.

RINGO H.W. CHIU AP

A wild­fire burns a home near Mal­ibu Lake in Mal­ibu, Calif., on Fri­day. The en­tire pop­u­la­tion of Mal­ibu was or­dered to evac­u­ate.

AL SEIB TNS

Fire smol­ders in a de­stroyed home in Thousand Oaks, Calif., on Fri­day morn­ing.

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