VIDEO: Northern California wildfire nearly quadruples in size

Fire moved so fast that crews couldn’t hope to stop it in Paradise, a town of nearly 30,000 people

  • Nov. 9, 2018 12:06 p.m.

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

Only a day after it began, the fire near the town of Paradise had grown to nearly 285 square kilometres.

“There was really no firefight involved,” said Capt. Scott McLean of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, explaining that crews gave up on attacking the flames and instead helped people evacuate. “These firefighters were in the rescue mode all day yesterday.”

The entire town was ordered evacuated, setting off a desperate exodus in which many motorists got struck in gridlocked traffic and abandoned their cars to flee foot. People in Paradise reported seeing much of the community go up in flames, including homes, supermarkets, businesses, restaurants, schools and a retirement centre.

“We were surrounded by fire. We were driving through fire on each side of the road,” police officer Mark Bass said.

READ MORE: Battling 18 blazes, California may face worst fire season yet

On Friday, the massive blaze spread north, prompting officials to order the evacuation of Stirling City and Inskip, two communities north of Paradise along the Sierra Nevada foothills.

The wind-driven blaze also spread to the west and reached the edge of Chico, a city of 90,000 people. Firefighters were able to stop the flames at the edge of the city, where evacuation orders remained in place Friday, said Cal Fire Cpt. Bill Murphy said.

The winds calmed down in the valley, but they were still shifting and erratic, with speeds of up to 72 kph along ridge tops, he said.

In Paradise, Bass evacuated his family and then returned to the fire to help rescue several disabled residents, including a man trying to carry his bedridden wife to safety.

“It was just a wall of fire on each side of us, and we could hardly see the road in front of us,” Bass said.

McLean estimated that several thousand buildings were lost in Paradise, northeast of San Francisco.

“Pretty much the community of Paradise is destroyed. It’s that kind of devastation,” he said.

Wildfires also erupted in Southern California, with reports early Friday of two large fires scorching about 60 square kilometres and threatening numerous communities. ABC7.com reported that 75,000 homes were under evacuation orders along the border of Ventura and Los Angeles counties.

The National Weather Service issued extreme fire danger warnings in many areas of the state, saying low humidity and strong winds were expected to continue through the evening.

The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Esquimalt speed skating week helps province determine find fastest skater

Speed Week takes place on Dec. 17 at Archie Browning arena

Longtime Saanich drama group brings pirates onstage for traditional Christmas pantomime

St. Luke’s Players present Treasure Island Dec. 18 to Jan. 4

Goldstream church offers free festive feast

Gordon United Church says all are welcome to attend Monday’s meal

VIDEO: Over 2,000 pounds of food collected for annual View Royal Fire Santa Run

Non-perishables, plus more than $3000 raised for Goldstream Food Bank

VIDEO: Success of wildlife corridors in Banff National Park has advocates wanting more

Demand for more highway protection escalated after seven elk were killed by a semi-trailer near Canmore

Pacioretty scores 2, Golden Knights top Canucks 6-3

Vegas goalie Fleury gets win No. 452

B.C. VIEWS: Hunger does not end with the season

Despite innovations in food distribution, the need is still there in B.C. communities

Fans sing Canadian anthem after sound system breaks at BMW IBSF World Cup

The Canadians in attendance made sure their team and flag were honoured on the podium

VIDEO: Fire destroys Big White Ski Resort chalet

Social media eulogies peg the property, nicknamed “The Pharamacy,” as both loved and hated

Prince George RCMP use bait packages to catch porch pirates over the holidays

First-in-Canada program with Amazon looks to combat parcel theft

Nanaimo mechanical engineer creates thief tracking program

Nanaimo Thief Tracking lets users plot and share information about thefts online

Mayor wants B.C. to institutionalize severely mental ill people who are homeless

Those suffering from mental health conditions, such as schizophrenia, need specialized care, mayor says

Five things of note from Trudeau’s mandate letters to his ministers

Some marching orders come from the Liberal Party’s campaign, while others are new additions

Most Read