Friday, 18 Jan 2019

California wildfires rage north and south, killing at least nine people and tens of thousands at risk

Lindsey Bever Mission reporter covering national news and breaking news – November 9 at 10:37 pm MILLE OAKS, California – California is on fire again, to the north and south, the deadly, fast flames fanned by the winds ferocious Santa Ana and fed by dry mud. . The fires killed at least nine people, immolated a mountain town and moved the nerves of tens of thousands of residents forced to evacuate their homes. Until now, fires have proved unstoppable, operating at the speed of a flood. The big forest fire that rages here in southern California, known as the Woolsey Fire, quadrupled on Friday, covering more than 22 km 2, with no confinement. He easily skipped the eight-lane Highway 101 and crossed the mountains of Santa Monica to Malibu, where he set fire to houses and cars. The wildfire finally finally met his only match so far: the Pacific Ocean. Newsletters from the northern part of the state were even worse. At least nine people died in or near their home or vehicle as they attempted to overtake the campfire, which devastated the mountain town of Paradise, located about 90 km north of the capital, Sacramento. Heaven was anything but block after block, broken power lines, charred cars in the middle of roads, utility poles still burning and fires around the city, although there is not much left vegetation to burn. Random buildings are still in the city of 27,000 inhabitants, but for every building that has survived, dozens of others do not have it.
A fire is burning in a van where the campfire ripped up Thursday in Paradise, California. Tens of thousands of people in northern California fled the flames. (Noah Berger / AP) Marc Kessler, 55, a science teacher at one of Paradise's colleges, said the smoke was rising from the mountain at the foot of Sierra Nevada when he arrived at work on Thursday. "The sky has become black; you could not say it was the day, "he said. "It was raining black soot, falling like a blizzard and lighting fires everywhere. In a few minutes, the city was engulfed. Kessler said the authorities had told teachers to forget the seatbelt laws and to heap up some 200 students who had gone to class Thursday morning in their personal vehicles. Some frenzied parents came forward to pick up their children, he said, and bus drivers went through flames to save the lives of their children. Kessler said one of the students in his car said, "Oh, look at the moon!" "I said, 'It's not the moon. It's the sun, "he recalled, his voice fading. "There were times when there were flames near the vehicles. There were times when you could not see through the smoke. Some of our teachers did not think that they would survive. About 23.4 million Californians were warned on Friday under the red flag, and officials warned that flames could reach the city of Chico, a university town of more than 90,000 located about six miles from Paradise. People rushed to evacuate. The camp fire was 110 square miles and had been controlled by only 5 percent by Friday, state officials said, warning that they would be at risk of additional deaths they could not afford. not confirm before being able to enter the burning areas without risk. The situation is terrifying for family members of residents who were last informed when the city and other nearby people ordered the evacuation of the city. "We did not have a lot of time; it's come too fast, "said Cory Nichols, a barber who fled his house to paradise. "We were going to sell the house. No need today. In recent years, California has experienced unprecedented regular debilitating fires, many of which encroach on towns and villages built on the edge of forests in areas prone to forest fires. In August, the Mendocino complex fire became the largest ever forest fire in the state, burning more than 400,000 acres. The previous record was set less than a year ago when Thomas Fire destroyed more than 280,000 acres in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. In October 2017, some 21 wildfires burned nearly 25,000 hectares and 7,000 buildings in Sonoma and Napa counties, in the heart of the California wine region, killing 40 people. The California fire season normally begins in the late spring and continues until summer. But the hot, dry weather persisted this year until the autumn, and the winter rains have not arrived yet. The Santa Ana winds, which blow from Sierra Nevada and head for the west coast, create strong winds that dry up vegetation and soil, creating potentially explosive fire conditions. In Thousand Oaks, 60 km from downtown Los Angeles, residents lived a brutal week. This city, beloved by its inhabitants for its clean air and crime, was already in mourning after the mass shooting of Wednesday night in a country music bar. Thursday night, during a protest vigil downtown, people had lit candles and thought about a crime without name. A few hours later, the same place was suffocated by the smoke and endangered by the Woolsey fire. In the night before dawn, a violent wind swept the half-stick American flags in the honor of the victims of the shooting. An orange glow could be seen throughout the city, sometimes jumping in flares along the ridges. Emergency bulletins buzzed cell phones in the middle of the night, sometimes calling for evacuations. "It's dangerous to sleep all night," said Sergio Figueroa, 34, who was taking his wife to a hotel where she was working on Friday. Late Thursday and late Friday, he watched television, knowing that his home was in the "voluntary" evacuation zone. He said that he had allowed himself an hour of sleep – but no real sleep. "Just close your eyes and stay alert," he said.

A collector car sits in debris where the camp fire ripped apart on Thursday in Paradise, California. (Noah Berger / AP)

Firefighter Jose Corona sprays water as the flames devour a house in Magalia, California on Friday. (Noah Berger / AP) At 3:00 am, the normally empty streets at that time were filled with parents, children and pets evacuating as the orange glow got closer. "Do not wait too long. Get out when they tell you to go out, "said 52-year-old Uber pilot Brent Young, who was preparing to take a Thousand Oaks customer to the Los Angeles International Airport via a back-and-forth route. which would bypass closed motorways and unsafe conditions. The problem was knowing which way to go. There were fires in many places. Even before the start of the Woolsey fire, another fire, the Hill Fire, threatened homes in the west of the city. Route 101 was closed in both directions at different times for two different fires. The only thing that prevented the hill fire is that it was hit by a fire in 2013 and was running out of fuel, officials said.

A house that was destroyed in Thousand Oaks, California, by the Woolsey fire. (Philip Cheung / For The Washington Post) Peggy Smith, a long-time resident, age 64, was refueling at 4 am Friday in a Mobil station located in a designated area. voluntary evacuation. She said that people started flocking to Thousand Oaks in the 1960s after airline pilots on the flight path to Los Angeles noticed that there was no smog here . The pilots moved in, followed by police officers and firefighters. She was ready for the fire. She only needed 10 minutes to load her car with favorite family photos, important documents, clothes and food. "My son is a firefighter. I was married to a firefighter. I'm not scared, "Smith said. "I fully trust our fire department." They were busy. The trucks went through the neighborhoods and cut down Highway 101. People had fled, electricity was cut off and the only light came from the fires. Wendy Eldredge, 54, was going to work, as always, at Noah's Bagels, near the highway, with the goal of arriving at 5 am so that the doors could open at 6 am When she climbed the hill and looked into Thousand Oaks, she was stunned. "What am I driving in?" She wondered. "How will I go out?" She drove to work and opened it, being the only one working in almost the only place with miles to do business. "I did not want to let people down," she said. Dawn arrived with a veil of smoke that wiped out the sun.
"It's crazy," said Paige Gordon, a real estate agent who was watching a friend's house in the village of Westlake as the flames consumed the scrub. "We have all aspects of Ventura County on fire." While he was using automatic fire extinguishers in his friend's backyard, an eruption of flames on the hill caught his eye: "There is fire right there!" The smoke was like a thunderclap on Thousand Oaks, the black cloud slowly advancing toward the sea as it passed through blackened thatch-covered hills. In Malibu, 35-year-old film and television producer Ben Rosenblatt took a look at the approaching fire and knew he had to go out quickly. He just had time to walk the dog first. There are not many Malibu entry and exit lanes as canyons roads are impassable due to fires. That left the Pacific Coast Highway, where traffic was slow. The drive to Santa Monica should have taken him 35 minutes, but the navigation application on his phone indicated that it would be 2 hours 35 minutes. "It's like a slow-motion race with huge clouds of fire behind you and end-to-end traffic ahead," said Rosenblatt. "Think of all the disaster movies where you are trying to get past the storm, but it's done so slowly." Back in Thousand Oaks, the smoke escaped and lit up again under the effect of a fire. In a teen center, designed as a place of escape for people fleeing fires, people became nervous when they saw the flames on a nearby hill. In the parking lot, people were sleeping in their cars next to their cats and dogs, their belongings tucked in the back. Mary Leighton, 57, of West Lake, had just gone to bed Thursday night when her brother heard from the news that they had to evacuate. "You think, what are you doing?" She said. "My mind has become empty." Five minutes later, carrying the ashes of her husband and cat, Pumpkin, she and her family were gone. They slept in a shelter during the night and woke up Friday morning to news that houses in their neighborhood had burned. Leighton did not know if his house had survived. She then recalled the mass shooting at the border: "I just do not understand why this city was hit so hard." She and her family did not have cradles at the shelter until 4am, she said. Leighton slept until 9 o'clock and woke up to make a plan for the sequel. She sat all morning in a white Volvo on the parking lot, still in her pajamas. "I can not find any information. I do not know what's going on, "she said. "I have nothing, I do not know anything."

A temporary dormitory at the Alex Fiore Thousand Oaks Center for residents displaced by the Woolsey fire. (Philip Cheung / For the Washington Post) Williams reported from Paradise California, Bever reported from Washington. Katie Zezima at Thousand Oaks and Noah Smith at Santa Monica contributed to this article. .

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