Northern California's Paradise 'Destroyed' as More Wildfires Rage

  • VOA News

    November 10, 2018 08:01

    Law enforcement authorities in northern California said Friday that five people have died in a wildfire, one of three in the state that have leveled thousands of homes and forced widespread evacuations.

    The Butte County Sheriff's office said the victims were found dead in vehicles that had been burned by the Camp Fire that left a trail of destruction in its path.

    The sheriff's office said the victims were found near the town of Paradise, which was destroyed by a blaze that forced thousands of residents to flee as it rapidly approached the outskirts of the city of Chico early Friday.

    Acting Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency in the northern part of the state to help facilitate rescue and recovery efforts. "The town is devastated, everything is destroyed," said California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Scott Maclean. "The fire moved so fast and grew so fast a lot of people got caught by it."

    State fire official Koby Johns said 2,000 buildings have been destroyed and another 2,000 buildings and 15,000 homes were "at imminent danger of burning."

    Paradise, located nearly 145 km north of Sacramento, was home to more than 26,000 residents, according to its website.

    A structure is seen engulfed in flames during the Camp Fire in Paradise, California on Nov. 8, 2018. /Reuters

    The fire, as officials expected, continued to spread to nearby towns, including the city of Chico. A state fire official said the Camp Fire had nearly quadrupled overnight to 285 "Right now, Mother Nature is in charge," Cal Fire spokesman Bryce Bennet told The Sacramento Bee newspaper.

    Evacuations were ordered for the east side of Chico, a city of about 93,000 people, as flames from the blaze were being driven by 56-km-per-hour winds. An undetermined number of civilians and firefighters have been injured and Maclean said earlier it could take days to determine the number of fatalities.

    The Camp Fire ignited Thursday and evolved into the most fierce of the wind-driven fires in what has been one of the worst years for wildfires in California. The Woolsey Fire prompted officials to call for the voluntary evacuation of some 75,000 homes in Ventura County northwest of Los Angeles, where 12 people were killed this week in a mass shooting. The fire was was also burning in parts of Los Angeles County.

    Fire officials said strong Santa Ana winds continued to fuel the Woolsey Fire overnight, doubling its size to nearly 3,248 hectares. The blaze also forced the partial evacuation of Malibu, a city of about 13,000 people that is home to many Hollywood celebrities. The Los Angeles County Fire Department tweeted, "imminent threat!," as the fire raged through the Santa Monica Mountains toward the ocean.

    Also burning farther west in Ventura County was the Hill Fire, which fire officials said burned nearly 4,050 hectares by Thursday night. Fire officials said it was also moving toward the ocean.

    Acting Governor Newsom sent a letter to President Donald Trump and the Federal Emergency Management Agency requesting an emergency declaration that would make federal assistance available to the communities affected by the wildfires. 

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