Tens of thousands of people were ordered to evacuate a fast-moving wildfire that has exploded in size threatening several Northern California communities and forcing panicked residents to race to help neighbours who had to drive through walls of flames to escape. It was not immediately known if there were injuries or fatalities.
Butte County Sheriff’s spokesperson Miranda Bowersox said on Thursday that all of Paradise, a town of about 27,000 people 290 km northeast of San Francisco, was ordered to evacuate.
“It’s bad,” Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea told the Enterprise-Record. “We’re trying to get as many people out as quickly as possible and save as many lives as we can.” Rick Carhart, a Cal Fire spokesman, said the wildfire affected about 30,000 people in the towns of Paradise, Concow and other small communities.
“The blaze is being driven by fairly strong winds,” Carhart said. “It’s really dry and we have low humidity and unfortunately those are great conditions for a fire to spread.” Thick grey smoke and ash filled the sky above Paradise and could be seen from miles away. The California Highway Patrol closed a nearby highway and urged motorists to avoid the area.
The National Weather Service issued red flag warnings for fire dangers in many areas of the state, saying low humidity and strong winds were expected to continue.