3 California wildfires destroy thousands of structures and force emergency evacuations

3 California wildfires destroy thousands of structures and force emergency evacuations
Fast-moving California wildfire claims significant number of buildings
It went from a spark to a wildfire covering more than 70 square kilometres in about six hours, and officials say the out-of-control blaze in Northern California is still growing.

Tens of thousands of people were ordered to flee the fast-moving flames — dubbed the Camp Fire by officials — that exploded in size Thursday morning, threatening several communities and forcing panicked residents to race to help neighbours who had to drive through walls of flames to escape.

The blaze erupted as windy weather swept the state, creating extreme fire danger. A wind-whipped fire north of Los Angeles in Ventura County burned about 15,000 acres (23 square miles) and at least one home in a matter of hours. It prompted evacuations of a mobile home park, a state university campus and a small community. A nearby blaze was smaller at less than 1,000 acres (1.5 square miles) but moving quickly.

Video: 27000 People Told To Evacuate California Town Of Paradise Due To Impending Wildfire | TIME

"Pretty much the community of Paradise is destroyed, it's that kind of devastation," said Cal Fire Capt. Scott McLean late Thursday. "The wind that was predicted came and just wiped it out."

McLean estimated that a couple of thousand structures were destroyed in the town of 27,000 residents about 180 miles (290 kilometres) northeast of San Francisco, was ordered to get out. The extent of the injuries and specific damage count was not immediately known as officials could not access the dangerous area.

McLean estimated that a couple of thousand structures were destroyed in the town of 27,000 residents about 300 kilometres northeast of San Francisco, was ordered to get out. By nightfall on Thursday, it had consumed more than 73 square kilometres and firefighters had no containment on the blaze, McLean said.

"We have received reports of some fatalities. Those reports have not yet been verified," Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea told a news conference.

Butte County Fire Chief Darren Read says multiple civilians and two firefighters have been injured and a significant number of buildings — as many as several hundred — have been lost.

My husband tried his best to get everybody out. The whole hills on fire. God help us! she said before breaking down crying. She and her husband grabbed their dog, jumped in their pickup truck and drove through flames before getting to safety, she said.

An Associated Press photographer found businesses and homes levelled or in flames, including a liquor store and gas station.

Groups of fleeing residents gathered in a Kmart parking lot in Paradise, with their dogs and some with horses, waiting to be evacuated, said Shelley Freeman who spoke to a relative and friends in Paradise. The friend told Freeman that all the trees around the store were on fire, and there were explosions and thick dark smoke.

"It's bad," Honea told the Enterprise-Record. "We're trying to get as many people out as quickly as possible and save as many lives as we can."     

As people fled in cars, some abandoned their vehicles, running from encroaching flames as they held babies in their arms and pets, said Gina Oviedo, who described a devastating scene as she evacuated the town of Paradise. Flames were engulfing homes, utility poles were crashing down and things were exploding, she said.

"The whole town is burning," Bob Van Camp, a resident who escaped on his motorbike, told local TV channel Action News Now. "We had to ride through flames to get here," he said from the side of a road west of Paradise.

In Chico, west of the fire, resident Tina Greer said the care home where her disabled son lives with five other patients was evacuating. It takes time to pack the patients medical equipment and medicine, she said. Her 25-year-old son has cerebral palsy, needs a wheelchair to get around and is fed through a tube.

Santa Ana winds to fuel Hill, Woolsey fires in Southern California as evacuations expand

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection tweeted that the fire broke out at about 6:30 a.m. local time in the Feather River Canyon, prompting an evacuation of the immediate area. Just hours later, as the fire spread, officials ordered the Paradise evacuation.

The Adventist Health Feather River Hospital in Paradise evacuated all its patients and staff, given its close proximity to the fire, and transported them safely to hospitals in neighboring towns, said Jill Kinney, an Adventist Health spokeswoman. She said she did not know the exact number of people evacuated.

One woman who got out said people abandoned their vehicles and held babies and pets as they escaped.

Gina Oviedo said there was fire everywhere as she got out of Paradise, adding that homes were engulfed in flames and utility poles were crashing down. 

In the midst of the chaos, officials said they could not provide figures on the number of wounded, but County Cal Fire Chief Darren Read said at a news conference that at least two firefighters and multiple residents were injured.

Paradise resident Kevin Winstead said the whole lower side of the town was burning. "Not one home will be left standing," he said.

"It was absolutely dark," said resident Mike Molloy, who said he made a split decision based on the wind to leave Thursday morning, packing only the minimum and joining a sea of other vehicles.

California wildfires: Butte County towns evacuated after fire spreads 10,000 acres | Daily Star

"It's really dry and we have low humidity and unfortunately those are great conditions for a fire to spread," said Cal Fire spokesman​ Rick Carhart. 

With Paradise located on a ridge and escape routes limited, traffic accidents turned roads into gridlock. Residents abandoned vehicles and ran from the flames carrying children and pets, officials said.

"Every engine that we could put on the fire, is on the fire right now and more are coming," he said. "There are dozens of strike teams that we're bringing in from all parts of the state."

Video: Very dangerous northern California wildfire blankets sky in thick, black smoke

Shary Bernacett said she and her husband tried to get people to leave the mobile home park they manage in Paradise, with just minutes to evacuate, as the wildfire approached the east side of town.

McLean estimated that a couple of thousand structures were destroyed in the town of 27,000 residents located about 300 kilometres northeast of San Francisco.

Bernacett said they "knocked on doors, yelled and screamed" to alert as many of the residents of 53 mobile homes and recreational vehicles as possible to leave the area Thursday morning.

The blaze erupted as windy weather swept the state, creating extreme fire danger. A wind-whipped fire north of Los Angeles in Ventura County burned about 15,000 acres (23 square miles) and at least one home in a matter of hours. It prompted evacuations of a mobile home park, a state university campus and a small community. A nearby blaze was smaller at less than 1,000 acres (1.5 square miles) but moving quickly.

Camp Fire Northern California: Video shows drivers dramatic escape

She and her husband grabbed their dog, jumped in their pickup truck and drove through three-metre-high flames before getting to safety. She said the air is black with smoke and ash.

McLean estimated that a couple of thousand structures were destroyed in the town of 27,000 residents about 180 miles (290 kilometres) northeast of San Francisco, was ordered to get out. The extent of the injuries and specific damage count was not immediately known as officials could not access the dangerous area.

Bernacett said the fire also overtook the hospital three kilometres east of the mobile home park. Adventist Health Feather River tweeted that it has managed to move all of its patients to other hospitals in the surrounding area.

“My husband tried his best to get everybody out. The whole hill’s on fire. God help us!” she said before breaking down crying. She and her husband grabbed their dog, jumped in their pickup truck and drove through flames before getting to safety, she said.

Everything destroyed as wildfire scorches Paradise, California

She says she heard from a friend that people, horses and dogs had congregated in a parking lot of a Kmart in Paradise.

Among them was Kim Curtis, who was searching for her grandmother, who told family at 8 a.m. Thursday that she would flee her Paradise home in her Buick with her cat. Her grandmother, who is in her 70s and lives alone, never showed up up at a meeting spot in Chico, though.

California is experiencing one of its worst fire years ever, with 251,610 hectares burned as of last Sunday in areas covered by Cal Fire, nearly twice the amount during the same period of 2017 and nearly triple the five-year average.

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The blaze erupted as windy weather swept the state, creating extreme fire danger. A wind-whipped fire north of Los Angeles in Ventura County burned about 15,000 acres (23 square miles) and at least one home in a matter of hours. It prompted evacuations of a mobile home park, a state university campus and a small community. A nearby blaze was smaller at less than 1,000 acres (1.5 square miles) but moving quickly.

Video: This is what residents fleeing the Camp Fire in Paradise saw as flames burned along escape route

Pretty much destroyed: California forest fires devastate towns

Thursday, November 8, 2018, 6:10 PM – Thousands of people in California have had to flee ahead of a wildfire that has consumed thousands of hectares of land and continues to grow, courtesy of strong winds. Known as the Camp Fire, the blaze is burning in Butte County, in central California north of the state capital Sacramento. It began early Thursday morning, and and grew so rapidly that it reached some 18,000 acres (7,200 hectares) as of Thursday afternoon. As of Thursday evening, it remained zero per cent contained.

Video: This is what residents fleeing the Camp Fire in Paradise saw as flames burned along escape route

Aside from the winds, low relative humidity in the area was making firefighters jobs harder, and the area was under a red flag warning Thursday.

“My husband tried his best to get everybody out. The whole hill’s on fire. God help us!” she said before breaking down crying. She and her husband grabbed their dog, jumped in their pickup truck and drove through flames before getting to safety, she said.

Some 20,000 people have been ordered to evacuate, according to the Houston Chronicle, and multiple highways in the area have been closed.

Among them was Kim Curtis, who was searching for her grandmother, who told family at 8 a.m. Thursday that she would flee her Paradise home in her Buick with her cat. Her grandmother, who is in her 70s and lives alone, never showed up up at a meeting spot in Chico, though.

So far, Calfire says “multiple” structures have burned, and several people have had to be treated for burns, though no fatalities have been reported as of yet. Around 30,000 customers are without power as a result of the fire.