Wildfires Kill at Least 5 Trapped in Cars in Northern California – The HabariTimes Online
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Wildfires Kill at Least 5 Trapped in Cars in Northern California

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Wildfires Kill at Least 5 Trapped in Cars in Northern California

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — As wildfires swept over a large swath of California on Friday, the authorities said at least five people had been killed in a blaze that decimated a retirement community in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada.

The state is battling three major fires, one in the northern Sierra and two west of Los Angeles. In the northern town of Paradise, the ruins of homes and businesses smoldered on Friday, while in Southern California tens of thousands of residents west of Los Angeles fled their homes and jammed onto highways.

The bodies of five people were found in Paradise “in vehicles that were overcome” by the flames, Sheriff Kory L. Honea of Butte County said, adding that they had been so badly burned they could not immediately be identified.

Firefighters in Chico, west of Paradise, were on the outskirts of the city on Friday, trying to push the fire away from homes and subdivisions. The blaze, called the Camp Fire, has burned more than 70,000 acres and is only 5 percent controlled, the authorities said.

In Southern California, the authorities ordered the complete evacuation of Malibu, the affluent community that is home to many Hollywood celebrities, as the fire raced through the hills and canyons above the Pacific Ocean. No part of the fire was under control, according to the Ventura County Fire Department.

A separate fire in Griffith Park, near Burbank and Glendale, and not far from downtown Los Angeles, forced the temporarily evacuation of some animals from the Los Angeles Zoo on the edge of the park.

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Emergency workers evacuated patients from the Feather River Hospital in Paradise, Calif., on Thursday.CreditJustin Sullivan/Getty Images

Wildfires like the latest ones have long been a threat in California, but their impact has never been greater as more and more areas are developed. Over the summer, a significant section of Northern California was burned by the largest fire on record, the Mendocino Complex Fire. And last year the state’s most destructive fire on record, the Tubbs Fire, tore through Sonoma and Napa Counties, killing 22 people and destroying thousands of homes.

More than 1.4 million acres have burned so far this year in the state, said Scott McLean, the deputy chief of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, roughly equal to the totals from the very destructive year of 2017.

And while the strong winds known as Santa Ana contributed to the bigger fires, the link with climate change is inextricable, said Park Williams, a bioclimatologist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

“It’s once again in California the perfect recipe for fire,” Dr. Williams said. “You get a big Santa Ana wind event in the fall before the first winter rain comes. You’ve got a lot of people who are always creating potential fires by lighting fires either on purpose or on accident.

“And then behind the scenes of all of this, you’ve got temperatures that are about two to three degrees Fahrenheit warmer now than they would’ve been without global warming.”

California’s governor-elect, Gavin Newsom, declared a state of emergency Friday in Los Angeles and Ventura Counties. On Thursday, he declared an emergency in northern Butte County and asked President Trump for federal assistance.

Firefighters moved a car from a burning home in Malibu, Calif.CreditRingo H.W. Chiu/Associated Press

On Friday morning near Paradise, black smoke eclipsed the sun, leaving the area in near nighttime conditions. The air was thick with the smell of burning timber and scrub vegetation. Butte County officials reported that evacuation centers were filling up.

Mr. McLean, the deputy forestry chief, said Paradise, a forested retirement community of 27,000 people, was decimated on Thursday.

Mr. McLean, who rescued a lone, older woman rolling down a road in her wheelchair, described a frantic effort to evacuate Paradise, especially its older residents. “We started loading up buses as best we could,” he said.

Staff at the Los Angeles Zoo evacuated animals to protect them from a wildfire burning in Griffith Park. CreditRobyn Beck/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“It’s phenomenal how fast the fire spread,” Mr. McLean said.

In Southern California, thick columns of smoke rose into the azure Southern California skies as the so-called Woolsey Fire burned 10,000 acres west of Los Angeles. Residents in more than 75,000 homes in Ventura and Los Angeles Counties have been told to evacuate.

The fire shut down the 101 freeway, a major transportation artery connecting Los Angeles with points north.

Assisted-living facilities rushed to move residents. At Atria Grand Oaks in Thousand Oaks, buses were brought in early Friday to move residents to two of the company’s other facilities in the Los Angeles area. A few miles away, officials at the Hillcrest Royale Retirement facility in Thousand Oaks decided around 10 a.m. on Friday that about 110 residents would be moved, even though the fire remained off in the distance. Employees were trying to alert the families of residents.

The National Park Service said Friday that Western Ranch, a movie set built by Paramount Pictures in Agoura, in the hills outside Los Angeles, had burned down.

“We have strong gusty winds up to 50 miles an hour,” said Bonnie Bartling, a specialist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard, a city west of Los Angeles, which has also been threatened by fire. “We have extremely dry fuels and low relative humidities. It’s a bad combination.”

The Woolsey Fire delivered a one-two punch for Thousand Oaks, igniting just hours after a gunman opened fire inside a popular country music bar in the city on Wednesday night and killed 12 people. On Friday morning, people who had fled their homes gathered in a shelter set up at the Thousand Oaks Teen Center, which was used the day before as a meeting place for families and friends of shooting victims. Some slept on cots, while others huddled around a television to watch the latest news about the fire.

Residents in two cities in the north, Inskip and Sterling, were told on Friday morning to evacuate. And after the Woolsey Fire jumped the freeway and quickly expanded up a hill on the other side, the authorities in Ventura County shut down a section of Highway 101, a major artery in the region. Two colleges whose campuses are near that fire, Pepperdine University in Malibu and California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, canceled classes.

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