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News > World

California Wildfires Destroy Hundreds of Homes, Kill Nine

  • A group of Cal Fire firefighters work on a burning structure during the Camp Fire in Paradise, California, U.S., Nov. 9, 2018.

    A group of Cal Fire firefighters work on a burning structure during the Camp Fire in Paradise, California, U.S., Nov. 9, 2018. | Photo: Reuters

Published 9 November 2018

Residents in several towns of both Northern and Southern California were evacuated in some of the most destructive wildfires in California history.

Wildfires raged Friday across California where at least nine people have died while trying to escape flames engulfing a mountain town.


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In Northern California, hundreds of homes were believed destroyed in Paradise, California, some 145 kilometers north of Sacramento, and officials feared the death toll could rise once crews put out the flames and inspect destroyed properties. By some accounts, the entire town is almost completely gone.

In Southern California some 800 kilometers to the south, in Malibu just outside of Los Angeles, flames driven by hot Santa Ana winds gusting up to 80 kilometers per hour raced down hillsides and through canyons toward multi-million dollar homes.

Thousands of residents packed the Pacific Coast Highway to head south or took refuge on beaches, along with their horses and other animals.

Among those force to flee what has been dubbed the Woolsey Fire, which had charred some 35,000 acres (14,164 hectares) as of Friday afternoon, were celebrities, including Lady Gaga, Alyssa Milano, Guillermo del Toro, and Kim Kardashian, who said on Twitter that flames had damaged the home she shares with Kanye West in nearby Calabasas.

"Fire is now burning out of control and heading into populated areas of Malibu," the city said in a statement online. "All residents must evacuate immediately."

A vineyard burns overnight during a wildfire that destroyed dozens of homes in Thousand Oaks, California, U.S. Nov/ 9, 2018. Photo | Reuters

The blaze, which spewed massive plumes of thick black smoke, also threatened parts of the nearby town of Thousand Oaks, where a gunman killed 12 people earlier this week in a shooting rampage at a college bar, stunning the bucolic Southern California community with a reputation for safety.

The Woolsey Fire broke out Thursday and quickly jumped the 101 Freeway in several places. On Friday, it climbed over the Santa Monica Mountains toward Malibu.

Authorities were forced to shut down the 101, a major north-south artery, as well as the Pacific Coast Highway. Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby said a "significant number" of homes had been destroyed by the flames but that an accurate count could not yet be made.

In Northern California the Camp Fire, has more than tripled in size to 70,000 acres (2,838 hectares) since igniting Thursday and leveling parts of the town of Paradise, with a population of 26,000 people.

In addition to five people found dead in their vehicles, many were forced to abandon their cars and run for their lives down the sole road through the mountain town. In the aftermath, a school bus was among several abandoned vehicles left blackened by flames.

About 2,000 structures were destroyed in the area, officials said.

Properties destroyed by the the Camp Fire are seen in Paradise, California, U.S., Nov. 9, 2018. Photo | Reuters

The death toll is expected to climb, said California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) spokesman Scott McLean, because flames have blocked search and rescue crews from looking for victims in destroyed homes.

"The only reason they found the five is because they were still on the road," McLean said.

California Acting Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency Friday for areas affected by the Woolsey and Hill fires in Ventura and Los Angeles counties.

The Hill Fire in Ventura County's Santa Rosa Valley has charred about 6,000 acres (2,428 hectares), according to Cal Fire.

In Los Angeles, another, smaller fire Friday in Griffith Park forced the Los Angeles Zoo to evacuate a number of show birds and some small primates as flames came within less than 2 miles (3 km) of the facility, zoo officials said in a statement.

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