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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Penticton Vees on four-game streak after 2-1 win against Salmon Arm Silverbacks

The Vees head to West Kelowna Tuesday, before coming home Friday to battle the Merritt Centennials.

Update: Individual successfully rescued from hills above Penticton

An individual became stranded earlier this morning.

First VegFest of the South Okanagan coming to Penticton

The festival is scheduled for Aug. 23, with speakers and entertainment all day.

Priest Camp near Summerland was created in 1845

Agreement formed between Grand Chief Nicola (1793-1859) and Father Giovanni Nobili (1812-1856)

After cashing in on QB gambles, Chiefs and 49ers to clash in Super Bowl

KC beats Tennessee, San Francisco dispatches Green Bay to reach NFL title game

B.C. VIEWS: Few clouds on Horgan’s horizon

Horgan’s biggest challenge in the remainder of his term will be to keep the economy humming along

Kelowna’s Tess Critchlow gears up for World Cup at Big White

Critchlow is a professional snowboarder competing for Team Canada in the boardercross competition

Victoria family focuses on ‘letting go, enjoying time together’ after dad gets dementia

Walter Strauss has developed an interest in music and now takes line dancing classes

B.C. forest industry grasps for hope amid seven-month strike, shutdowns, changes

Some experts say this could be worse for forestry than the 2008 financial crisis

Northern B.C. RCMP investigating alleged sexual assault in downtown Smithers

One person was transported by ambulance to hospital following RCMP investigation at Sedaz

UBC, Iranian-Canadian community create memorial scholarship in honour of victims

The Jan. 8 crash killed 176 people, including 57 Canadians

Disrespectful that Horgan won’t meet during northern B.C. tour: hereditary chief

Na’moks said he was frustrated Horgan didn’t meet with the chiefs

Most Read