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

Quesnel woman killed in fatal collision

The collision took place on Maple Drive, near Kube Road

Quesnel students recognized for burn awareness posters

St. Ann’s Catholic School student Claire Barbosa in the provincial Burn Awareness Week Poster Contest

Englands in China: Christmas trip to Vietnam

Ron and Gill England are living and working abroad and sharing their experiences with the Observer

Sri Lanka presentation happening Thursday, Jan. 24 at Quesnel Library

The presentation is part of the Friends of the Library travelogue series

Eighty athletes compete at Biathlon BC Cup race in Quesnel

Two-day event at Hallis Lake features beginners, national-calibre racers and recreational athletes

New Canada Food Guide nixes portion sizes, promotes plant-based proteins

Guide no longer lists milk and dairy products as a distinct food group

Suspended B.C. legislature officers accused of ‘flagrant overspending’

Personal trips, purchases, alcohol and more laid out in 76-page report by Plecas

Alberta youth charged over theft of $17,000 in snow equipment at B.C. ski resort

Alberta RCMP recovered $17,000 in skis/snowboards believed stolen from Fernie Alpine Resort Saturday

China demands U.S. drop Huawei extradition request with Canada

Hua said China demands that the U.S. withdraw the arrest warrant against Meng Wanzhou

Giant ice disk equipped with webcam after surviving storm

Westbrook official Tina Radel says the livestream was requested by Brown University

Ousted B.C. legislature officials say report released to further blacken their reputations

James and Lenz say release was ‘Contrary to all principles of fairness and decent treatment’

B.C. animators land Oscar nominations

‘Animal Behaviour’ by Vancouver’s David Fine and Alison Snowden among several Canadians on the short list

B.C. legislature managers accused of excessive travel, personal expense claims

Clerk Craig James, security chief Gary Lenz call allegations ‘completely false’

Auto shop apologizes after B.C. employees disrespect memorial convoy

Mr. Lube staff members suspended after incident Sunday in Nanaimo

Most Read