Paradise, California: Camp fire exploded in size Thursday; Wildfire destroys entire town

Frederick Owens
November 13, 2018

A wildfire that moved so fast that firefighters couldn't hope to stop it quadrupled in size Friday after destroying several thousand buildings and leveling much of a Northern California town of almost 30,000 people, authorities said.

Only a day after it erupted, the wildfire near the town of Paradise had grown to almost 110 square miles (285 square km) and was burning out of control.

"There's nothing much left standing", California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Scott Maclean said.

By Friday morning, the town's main road was littered with downed trees and power lines.

Fire surrounded the evacuation route, and drivers panicked. "We were driving through fire on each side of the road", police officer Mark Bass said.

California Acting Governor Gavin Newsom on Friday declared a state of emergency for areas affected by the Woolsey and Hill fires in Ventura and Los Angeles counties.

The Butte County Sherriff's Office have confirmed several more fatalities as they continue their response to the deadly Camp Fire now raging in Northern California.

The blaze that started Thursday morning east of Paradise and decimated the town also spread to the west.

A further 75,000 homes have already been evacuated, according to local media.

Cal Fire's Bill Murphy says winds have calmed down in the valley but that there are "shifting, erratic winds" with speeds of up to 45mph (72 km/h) along ridge tops.

At least 40,000 residents were forced to evacuate in Butte County after the fire broke out early Thursday, "growing uncontrollably" at a rate of about 80 football fields per minute. The recording shows fire claiming houses and trees, and sparks blowing across the road in front of them.

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McLean estimated that the lost buildings numbered in the thousands in Paradise, about 180 miles northeast of San Francisco. By nightfall, it had consumed more than 28 square miles (73 square kilometers) and firefighters had no containment on the blaze, McLean said.

As wildfires continue to race across the tinder-dry California countryside, cities stand little chance of turning the ravaging flames aside.

A wind-driven wildfire raged through Southern California communities on Friday, burning homes and forcing thousands of people to flee as it relentlessly pushed toward tony Malibu and the Pacific Ocean.

The beachside town of Malibu, known as the home of many Hollywood stars, has about 13,000 residents and lies along 21 miles of coast at the southern foot of the mountain range.

"Imminent threat!" the department said in its warning.

The Woolsey blaze was also burning in parts of Los Angeles County, where mandatory evacuation orders were given Friday morning south of U.S. Highway 101, the Los Angeles County Fire Department said.

The fire broke out Thursday northwest of Los Angeles and roared southward, jumping the US 101 freeway early Friday and sweeping into the Santa Monica Mountains.

Evacuations were also issued north of the 101 Freeway from Valley Vista to Reyes Adobe in the areas of Agoura Hills, Calabasas and Westlake Village, as well as in West Hills.

The fire in Paradise burned fast, reports CBS News' David Begnaud. Firefighters were able to stop the fire at the edge of the city, where evacuation orders remained in place Friday, Cal Fire Cpt.

Tens of thousands of people were ordered to evacuate, but there were no injuries to residents or firefighters, said Los Angeles County Deputy Fire Chief Dave Richardson.

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