California wildfires force hundreds of thousands to evacuate, claim lives

Leroy Wright
November 10, 2018

Fire officials have issued evacuation orders for homes in areas of Chico, Calif., which has a population of roughly 93,000 people.

In all, three major fires are burning across the state.

The LA County Sheriff's Office said it was receiving "many emergent phone calls" from people who "need our help to evacuate" and urged motorists in the area to be aware of emergency vehicles.

Where is the Woolsey Fire spreading to?

The blaze started on Thursday near Thousand Oaks, about 40 miles (64km) north-west of central Los Angeles. Firefighters were able to stop the fire at the edge of the city, Cal Fire Cpt.

The fire had jumped Highway 101 in several places, including Calabasas and Agoura Hills, and was moving southwards toward coastal Malibu, Malibu Search and Rescue said in a post on Twitter. Last night it covered just 2,000 acres.

The first of the fires broke out on Thursday, northwest of Los Angeles, and roared south, with an estimated 75,000 homes evacuated in western Los Angeles County and eastern Ventura County. Fire surrounded the evacuation route, and drivers panicked.

More than 2,200 firefighters were battling the blaze, backed up by helicopters and water tankers. "God help us!" she said before breaking down crying.

The singer Lady Gaga said she had evacuated her home in Malibu, posting a video on Instagram that showed dark smoke billowing overhead.

Rapper Kanye West tweeted to thank everyone for their prayers, saying that his family was "safe and close".

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(Ringo H.W. Chiu/AP) The Woolsey Fire is seen looking towards the west valley area on November 9, 2018 in Porter Ranch, California.

Some may have lost their lives trying to flee the Camp Fire. By nightfall, the fire had expanded in size to 70,000 acres, and was just 5 percent contained. More than 6,700 homes and businesses were destroyed and residents fled for their lives.

Queues to leave the city have resulted in traffic jams and gridlock, which has led people to leave cars abandoned on roads as they rush to safety. "It was the event we have feared for a long time", Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said at a Friday evening press conference.

He "knocked on doors, yelled and screamed" to alert as many residents as possible, Bernacett said.

Maclean said an as yet unspecified number of civilians and firefighters had been injured, and that it could be days before authorities would know whether anyone had died.

"This event was the worst-case scenario", he said.

"By the time we got out, the flames were a half mile away from the school".

Authorities used a bulldozer to push abandoned cars out the way to reach Feather River Hospital and evacuate patients as flames engulfed its old wing and the roof of the emergency department, Butte County Supervisor Doug Teeter told reporters. Wafers of ash are drifting down like enormous snowflakes, smothering sound. Much of the brush and grasses were blackened along the valleys, and many trees were still burning, a CNN crew there observed. There are booms and creaks from burning trees and telegraph poles.

The blaze is one of 16 now active in California.

"Pretty much the community of Paradise is destroyed, it's that kind of devastation", said Cal Fire Capt. Scott McLean late Thursday. Investors are waiting on the state's investigation into the Tubbs fire, the deadliest of the 2017 wine country fires.

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