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Wildfire forces evacuation of California town, dozens still trapped

Staff Writer | November 9, 2018
Thousands of residents in a California town fled raging flames of a widefire approaching their homes and streets on Thursday, with dozens still trapped inside the fire zone, the authorities said.
Paradise, California fire
America   Paradise, California fire
The northern California town, called Paradise, is about 150 km north of Sacramento, the capital city of the state of California.

"The whole town's on fire," Scott Lotter, a town councilman who evacuated with his family, told local newspaper Sacramento Bee, "It's pretty grim."

Video posted online showed that the blaze is devouring trees and houses along the highway when residents fled the foothill town, and desperate people abandoned their vehicles everywhere, forcing emergency personnel to push cars off the few roads leading to safety.

A thick, dark plume of smoke filled the sky in the video. A chef from Old Barn Kitchen restaurant said he fled the town which is "raining ash."

"It's like someone set off a huge mushroom cloud bomb," he said.

"There were flames to the left of me and flames to the right," Wendell Whitmore, a 62-year-old resident told the Sacramento Bee after driving out of the town.

"The flames were up in the trees, all the houses were on fire. The fire was three feet from my car. The rubber around the windows was melting. That's when I decided to get out," he added.

Fueled by steady winds and dry grass, the fire, dubbed Camp Fire, was first reported at about 6:30 am (1230 GMT Thursday)and it rapidly exploded to an estimated 18,000 acres (72.8 square km) by 2:30 pm (2030 GMT Thursday).

John Gaddie of Cal Fire was quoted by the newspaper as saying the fire was very dangerous not just because it had a critical rate of spread.

"Not only is the wind playing a role but the fire is creating it own weather," Gaddie said, adding that "We couldn't get people out quickly enough" and "This is a very scary, dangerous fire."

Cal Fire said the fire was zero containment so far and could issue more evacuation orders to nearby towns Thursday night.