California wildfire pollution paralyzes San Francisco region - Emirates24|7

California wildfire pollution paralyzes San Francisco region

Photo: AFP

The sidewalk cafes of this Silicon Valley city, usually packed at lunchtime with workers from Google and other high-tech companies, were mostly abandoned Monday afternoon.

A few people, some wearing facemasks, rushed past and ducked inside stores, avoiding the acrid, smoky air outside.

Though the deadly wildfires around Paradise are about 150 miles (240 kilometers) to the northeast, the San Francisco Bay area has been blanketed with a thick layer of haze for days.

San Francisco reported unhealthy air quality for the 12th straight day on Monday.

Purple Air, a private company that monitors air quality worldwide, last week ranked Northern California as having the foulest air around the globe.

Weather forecasters promised improvement when rain arrives on Wednesday.

"If I don't have the mask on, I actually feel like I can taste the sediment in the air," Eric Ryzl told AFP as he delivered packages for UPS at a Mountain View apartment complex.

Many Bay Area universities and secondary schools remained closed Monday, and did not plan to reopen until after the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Those schools that did open restricted students, canceling sports and other outdoor activities.

Joanne Doria, a junior at Los Altos High School, was wearing a mask and said she was trying to avoid going outside when possible.

"The tiny particles from the smoke can damage your lungs, and I have slight asthma as well as a history of getting pneumonia," she said, adding that she donned a mask "because my dad is worried."

Parks and zoos were closed, and streets usually packed at lunchtime were ghostly quiet.

 Across the bay from San Francisco, a group called Mask Oakland planned to hand out 50,000 masks to homeless people and others most at risk in that city.

San Francisco's iconic Golden Gate Bridge was shrouded in haze as the air quality index was listed at 172.

Anything above 151 is considered unhealthy, and leads to calls for even healthy people to avoid prolonged outdoor exertion.

Rain could hinder search for victims of California wildfire

The search for remains of victims of the devastating Northern California wildfire has taken on new urgency as rain in the forecast could complicate those efforts while also bringing relief to firefighters on the front lines.

Up to 400 people fanned out Sunday to search the ash and rubble where homes once stood before flames roared through the Sierra foothills town of Paradise and surrounding communities, killing at least 77 people in the deadliest U.S. wildfire in a century.

Wearing white coveralls, hard hats and masks, teams of volunteers and search and rescue crews poked through the smoky debris for fragments of bone before rains can wash them away or turn loose, dry ash into a thick paste.

The so-called Camp Fire has destroyed more than 10,500 homes.

A team of 10 volunteers, accompanied by a cadaver dog, went from house to house in the charred landscape.

They scrutinized the rubble in five-minute sweeps, using sticks to move aside debris and focused on vehicles, bathtubs and what was left of mattresses.

When no remains were found, they spray-painted a large, orange "0'' near the house and moved on.

Robert Panak, a volunteer on a team from Napa County, said he tried to picture the house before it burned and think where people might have hidden.

His morning search was fruitless, but he wasn't deterred.

"I just think about the positives, bringing relief to the families, closure," Panak said.

Sheriff Kory Honea said it was within the "realm of possibility" that officials would never know the exact death toll from the blaze.

He also questioned whether the search for remains could be completed by midweek when rain is forecast.

"As much as I wish that we could get through all of this before the rains come, I don't know if that's possible," Honea said.

About 1,000 names remain on a list of people unaccounted for more than a week after the fire began in Butte County about 140 miles (225 kilometers) north of San Francisco, authorities said.

Authorities don't believe all those on the list are missing and the roster dropped by 300 on Sunday as more people were located or got in touch to say they weren't missing.

On Sunday afternoon, more than 50 people gathered at a memorial for the victims at First Christian Church in Chico, where a banner on the altar read, "We will rise from the ashes."

People hugged and shed tears as Pastor Jesse Kearns recited a prayer for first firefighters, rescuers and search teams: "We ask for continued strength as they are growing weary right now."

Paul Stavish, who retired three months ago from a Silicon Valley computer job and moved to Paradise, placed a battery-powered votive candle on the altar as a woman played piano and sang "Amazing Grace."

Stavish, his wife and three dogs managed to escape the fire, but the house is gone. He said he was thinking of the dead and also mourning the warm, tight-knit community.
"This is not just a few houses getting burned," he said. "The whole town is gone."

Hundreds of search and recovery personnel are involved in the effort, going to homes where they received tips that someone might have died.

But they are also doing a more comprehensive, "door-to-door" and "car-to-car" search of areas, said Joe Moses, a commander with the Monterey County Sheriff's Office, who is helping oversee the search and rescue effort.

The search area is huge, Moses said, with many structures that need to be checked.

The fire also burned many places to the ground, creating a landscape unique to many search-and- rescue personnel, he said.

"Here we're looking for very small parts and pieces, and so we have to be very diligent and systematic in how we do your searches," he said Friday.

The death count only grew by one Sunday and firefighters managed to expand containment to 65 percent of the 234 square mile (606 sq. kilometers) burn zone.

Rain was forecast for midweek in the Paradise area. The National Weather Service said the area could get 20 mph (32 kph) sustained winds and 40 mph (64 kph) gusts, which could make it hard for crews to keep making progress against the blaze.

Death toll rises to 76 in California fire with winds ahead

Northern California crews battling the country's deadliest wildfire in a century were bracing for wind gusts of up to 50 miles per hour that could erode gains they have made on a disaster that has killed at least 76 people.

Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said Saturday that deputies have located hundreds of people, but nearly 1,300 people remain unaccounted for.

He stressed that the roster includes duplicate names and names of people who haven't reported that they are OK. He pleaded with fire evacuees to check the list.

Photos: AP

The Camp Fire has destroyed nearly 10,000 homes since it sparked Nov. 8 and torched 233 square miles (600 square kilometers). It is 55 percent contained.

President Donald Trump surveyed wildfire damage at both ends of the state Saturday and pledged the federal government's full support. Three people died in Southern California wildfires.

Number of missing jumps to more than 1,000 in California fire

The number of people missing in a devastating wildfire in northern California jumped to more than 1,000 on Friday, authorities said, as the remains of eight other victims were found by rescuers.

Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said the number of missing had soared from 631 on Thursday to 1,011 as more reports of missing were sent in and a review of emergency calls made when the fire broke out on November 8.

The eight additional victims brings to 71 the number of people who have died in the so-called Camp Fire.

Three other people have died in southern California in a another blaze dubbed the Woolsey fire.

Number of missing in California fire jumps past 600

The number of people listed as missing in one of California's deadliest wildfires has skyrocketed past 600, authorities said Thursday, as the remains of seven additional victims were found by rescuers.

Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said the number of missing had more than doubled during the day to 631 as investigators went back and checked emergency calls made when the fire broke out a week ago.

"I want you to understand that the chaos we were dealing with was extraordinary" when the fire started, he told journalists, in explaining the staggering new number.

The seven additional victims brings to 63 the number of people who have died in the so-called Camp Fire in northern California.

At least three other people have died in southern California in another blaze dubbed the Woolsey Fire.

Photos: AP

President Donald Trump is set to visit California on Saturday to meet with victims of the wildfires believed to be the worst in the state's history.

Death toll from California wildfires rises as 130 still missing

The toll in the deadliest wildfires in recent California history climbed to 59 on Wednesday as authorities released a list of 130 people still missing.

Most of those unaccounted for are from the Butte County town of Paradise, in northern California, which was virtually erased from the map by the so-called "Camp Fire" blaze that erupted last week.

Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea told journalists Wednesday evening that 461 search and rescue personnel and 22 cadaver dogs were involved in the effort to locate those missing and DNA testing was being expedited to identify the victims.

"Beginning Thursday, anyone who believes a family member perished can provide a DNA sample" to the sheriff's office, Honea said.

Paradise, a town of around 26,000 in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains, was popular with retirees and many of those reported missing by the sheriff's office are elderly - in their 70s, 80s and 90s.

Virtually every home in Paradise, located 80 miles (130 kilometers) north of the state capital Sacramento, was destroyed by the fast-moving fire fueled by high winds.

At least 59 deaths have been reported so far from the devastating wildfires and body recovery teams were going house-to-house with cadaver dogs in Paradise on Wednesday.

"We are in the midst of a catastrophe," Governor Jerry Brown told a press conference. "The fire was unprecedented, overwhelming, so a lot of people got caught."

Brock Long, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), said Paradise was looking at a "total rebuild" with many homes, businesses and infrastructure destroyed.

"This is going to be a very long and frustrating event for the citizens of Paradise," Long said.

"We're going to have to find a new normal."

"You're not going to be able to rebuild Paradise the way it was."

An AFP reporter in Paradise on Wednesday saw crews removing trees, repairing fences along roads and towing away cars.

Authorities said livestock owners were being allowed in to restricted areas for brief periods to feed the animals but it was unclear when residents would be allowed back in.

Saved by a 'Bulldozer driver'

Allyn Pierce, a nurse in Paradise, told The New York Times and CNN how his life was saved by a bulldozer driver as he fled the town in his pickup truck along with other residents on Thursday.

Pierce said cars were catching fire around him and he dictated a goodbye message to his family, expecting his vehicle to catch fire next.

"I stayed calm but I was terrified," Pierce said.

"Then all of a sudden this bulldozer comes out of nowhere and knocks this burning truck out of the way," he said.

Instead of fleeing to safety, however, Pierce turned around and went back to the Adventist Health Feather River Hospital, where he works as an intensive care nurse, and helped evacuate patients to the hospital's helipad.

Pierce displayed pictures of his Toyota pickup truck which he said was still working despite lights which had melted and a rear passenger door which had been welded shut by the heat from the fire.

The "Camp Fire" has ravaged 135,000 acres (54,632 hectares) of land and is 35 percent contained, according to Cal Fire.

It has destroyed some 7,600 homes and 260 commercial properties. Battling the blaze are more than 5,600 fire personnel, some from as far away as Washington state and Texas.

The "Woolsey Fire" has razed 97,620 acres (39,505 hectares) and has been 47 percent contained.

Photos: AFP

Firefighters battle blazes on two fronts in California, 50 dead

Thousands of firefighters battled blazes in northern and southern California on Tuesday as body recovery teams searched the remains of houses and charred cars for victims of the deadliest wildfire in the history of the US state.

At least 50 deaths have been reported statewide so far from the late-season wildfires, and with hundreds of people unaccounted for, the toll is likely to rise.

Most of the fatalities have been caused by the so-called "Camp Fire" in and around the town of Paradise, population 26,000, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains about 80 miles (130 kilometers) north of Sacramento.

"Today an additional six human remains were recovered, which brings the total to 48. All six of those remains were located in Paradise, and they were located within homes," Sheriff Kory Honea told a news conference.

Another two deaths have been reported from the "Woolsey Fire," north of Los Angeles.

Paradise, which is home to many retirees and has experienced an unusually dry fall, was virtually razed to the ground by the fast-moving "Camp Fire" blaze.

Residents have recounted harrowing tales of fleeing the fires on foot with little more than the clothes on their backs.

Others escaped by driving through tunnels of smoke and fire as flames licked at their vehicles on gridlocked roads dotted with abandoned cars.

Melissa Schuster, a member of the Paradise town council, told ABC News that the entire town "is a toxic wasteland right now."

"We have teams - you know, coroner teams - that have to go house to house and vehicle to vehicle," Schuster told ABC.

Hundreds of thousands flee

The "Camp Fire," which erupted on Thursday, has ravaged 130,000 acres (50,600 hectares) of land and is 35 percent contained, according to Cal Fire.

Butte County, where the blaze is located, has seen less than an inch of rainfall in more than 30 weeks.

Photos: AFP

The "Camp Fire" has destroyed more than 6,500 homes and 260 commercial properties. Battling the blaze are more than 5,600 fire personnel, some from as far away as Washington state and Texas.

The "Woolsey Fire," which also began on Thursday, has razed 97,114 acres (39,300 hectares) and has been 40 percent contained.

Cal Fire said more than 3,500 fire personnel were battling the "Woolsey Fire."

"We're starting to get a handle on this fire," said Captain Brian McGrath of the Ventura County Fire Department in an online briefing. "I'm not feeling nearly the amount of wind and it's a little bit cooler this morning."

The "Woolsey Fire" has destroyed 435 structures including the 100-year-old Paramount Ranch where HBO's "Westworld" and other popular television shows and movies were filmed.

The fires have forced a quarter of a million people to flee their homes and seven evacuation shelters have been set up in Butte County, three of which are already full, according to the authorities.

Major disaster

On Monday, President Donald Trump - at the request of state authorities - declared that a "major disaster" exists in California.

The declaration provides for federal assistance to aid state firefighting and recovery efforts in the counties of Butte, Ventura and Los Angeles.

Trump had earlier earned the ire of state officials with a claim that "gross mismanagement" of forestry in the state was responsible for the damage.

California Governor Jerry Brown said he expects the fires could be worse in the years to come.

"Unfortunately, the best science is telling us that the dryness, warmth, drought, all those things, they're going to intensify," Brown said.

The "Woolsey Fire" on the southern end of the state has devoured mansions and mobile homes alike in the coastal town of Malibu.

Over the weekend, the "Woolsey Fire" engulfed parts of Thousand Oaks, where a Marine Corps veteran shot dead 12 people in a country music bar on Wednesday.

Among those who lost their homes was the pop star Miley Cyrus, who tweeted that her "house no longer stands but the memories shared with family & friends stand strong."

Deadliest fire in California history kills 42 people

The number of people killed by a massive blaze in northern California rose to 42 on Monday, making it the deadliest wildfire in the history of the state.

Thousands of firefighters spent a fifth day digging battle lines to contain the "Camp Fire" in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains north of Sacramento, while search teams were on a grim mission to recover the dead.

"As of today, an additional 13 human remains have been recovered, which brings the total number to 42," Sheriff Kory Honea told a news conference.

The blaze is "the deadliest wildland fire in California history," Honea said.

Although it is difficult to be certain due to inconsistencies in record keeping and categorization, the Camp Fire appears to deadliest American wildfire in a century - since the Cloquet Fire killed an estimated 1,000 people in Minnesota in 1918.

The Camp Fire is the largest of several infernos that have sent a quarter of a million people fleeing their homes across the tinder-dry state, with winds of up to 60 miles (100 kilometers) per hour fanning the fast-moving flames.

In addition to the historic loss of life, the Camp Fire blaze is also more destructive than any other on record, having razed 6,500 homes in the town of Paradise, effectively wiping it off the map.

More than 5,100 firefighters from as far as the states of Washington and Texas have been working to halt the advance of the inferno as "mass casualty" search teams backed by anthropologists and a DNA lab pick through the charred ruins to identify remains - sometimes reduced to no more than shards of bone.

At least 44 people have died in fire zones in north and south California, where acrid smoke has blanketed the sky for miles, the sun barely visible.

US President Donald Trump "declared that a major disaster exists in the state of California and ordered federal aid to supplement state, tribal, and local recovery efforts in the areas affected by wildfires," the White House said in a statement.

The move makes aid available to the state's fire-hit Butte, Los Angeles and Ventura counties.

On the ground, cars caught in the flames have been reduced to scorched metal skeletons, while piles of debris smolder where houses once stood, an occasional brick wall or chimney remaining.

Glenn Simmons, 64, told AFP in the nearby town of Chico that he had been sleeping in his car since Thursday, unable to find a space in a shelter.

"I was planning on maybe moving out of state, or into southern California... Everything is burned up. I have my clothes and I have a backpack, and that's pretty much it," he said.

The Camp Fire has reduced around 17 square miles (45 square kilometers) of Butte County's forested hills mostly to charred wasteland - an area which hasn't seen rainfall of more than half an inch (one centimeter) in more than 30 weeks.

It is currently 25 percent contained, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) said.

Three firefighters have been injured in the effort to quell the blaze's advance.

At the southern end of the state, another three firefighters have been injured battling the Woolsey Fire, which has devoured mansions and mobile homes alike in the coastal celebrity resort of Malibu.

The blaze is similar in size to the Camp Fire but has been much less destructive, and the death toll has been limited to two victims found in a vehicle on a private driveway.

California wildfire toll matches deadliest ever, 29 fatalities

The number of dead in a wildfire raging in California rose to 29 on Sunday, matching the deadliest in the state's history as recovery teams found six more bodies in the grim search through the wreckage.

The "Camp Fire" - in the northern foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains - is the largest and most destructive of several infernos that have sent 250,000 people fleeing their homes across the tinder-dry state, razing 6,400 homes in the town of Paradise and effectively wiping it off the map.

"Today, an additional six human remains were recovered, which brings our current total to 29," Sheriff Kory Honea told a news conference at the end of the fourth day in the struggle to contain the blaze, adding that all were found in Paradise.

In fire zones in north and south California - where a total of at least 31 people have died - acrid smoke blanketed the sky for miles, the sun barely visible. On the ground, cars caught in the flames were reduced to mangled metal carcasses, while power lines were gnawed by the flames.

An AFP journalist saw recovery team workers discover bag and drive away two bodies in the Paradise area on Sunday, and the death toll looked set to rise further with scores more people still unaccounted for.

The Camp Fire has the grisly distinction of matching the 1933 Griffith Park disaster in Los Angeles - until now the single deadliest wildfire on record, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire).

At the southern end of the state, where the "Woolsey Fire" is threatening mansions and mobile homes alike in the coastal celebrity redoubt of Malibu, the death toll has been limited to two victims found in a vehicle on a private driveway.

Los Angeles County Fire chief Daryl Osby told reporters of his gratitude to firefighters "who've done all they could do save tens of thousands of people's lives and thousands of people's homes."

'The new abnormal '

Rescuers also spent hours on Saturday collecting bodies around Paradise and placing them in a black hearse.

Body parts were transported by bucket, while intact remains were carried in body bags.

At the Holly Hills Mobile Estate the mobile homes had been reduced to smoldering piles of debris.

Yellow police tape delineated spots that were tagged "Doe C" and "Doe D," a grim marker of the bodies that had recently been removed.

Locals fled the danger, but police told AFP some farmers returned to check on their cattle.

Fanned by strong winds, the "Camp Fire" has scorched 111,000 acres (45,000 hectares) and is 25 percent contained, Cal Fire said.

So far, three of the more than 4,000 firefighters deployed have been injured.

They estimate they will need three weeks to fully contain the blaze.

Evacuation orders have been issued to more than a quarter of a million people across California, with authorities urging residents not to ignore warnings to flee.

"This is not the new normal, this is the new abnormal. And this new abnormal will continue, certainly in the next 10 to 15 to 20 years," California Governor Jerry Brown told a news conference on Sunday.

"Unfortunately, the best science is telling us that the dryness, warmth, drought, all those things, they're going to intensify," he said.

California's Paradise: a ghost town emerging from hell

Smoldering debris, skeletons of cars with melted glass, a cat with a singed, soot-covered coat: ravaged by the most destructive fire to hit California, Paradise is now a ghost town.

"It's devastation, total devastation, it's pretty incredible something like this occurred," said firefighter Mark Nees, who arrived from neighboring Oregon to help his California colleagues.

"We've gone through lots of wildfire over the years, this is the worst I've seen personally," the team leader told AFP.

In the center of town as well as the suburbs, there is nothing left of many houses - most of which are built of wood in California - except charred debris and sometimes a brick chimney rising into the sky.

Some buildings are strangely spared, such as an almost intact garage surrounded by a white plastic fence that was melted from the heat.

Firefighters' red trucks and yellow suits, along with the blue pickups of electricity company workers, are the only splashes of color in the desolate, ashen grey landscape: the 27,000 inhabitants of Paradise were evacuated, some barely escaping the flames.

Others were not so lucky: rescue workers recovered bodies from burned residences in Paradise on Saturday as the death toll from the blaze mounts.

Inhabitants were prevented from returning to the area as a state of emergency requires, a police officer told AFP.

Despite the protests of residents who want to try to find a loved one, an animal or just to find out if their house is still standing, dozens of vehicles were forced to turn back.

'I don't know where else to look'

Other evacuees wait in anguish near the police barricade, including Katie McCrary, an old lady without a cell phone who has no news of her two sons and grandchildren.

"I don't know if they are all right, if they got out, I've been to the shelters in Chico, they're not there," she said, referring to a neighboring city.

"I don't know where else to look," McCrary said, with soot on her sweater, visibly exhausted after having spent two nights in her car on the side of the road.

Dozens of people were still missing on Saturday.

"Our neighbor and his daughter stayed, we haven't been able to get hold of them and they live right below us," said Jodie Colvard, who was not present when the evacuation took place.

She also waits, and worries about her dog.

"Our German shepherd is still in there, we left in the morning and we couldn't get back in, so she's still in there," Colvard said.

An electricity company employee took the address and promised to check on the dog.

"If the house is still there," she said.

The fire, which has already consumed over 150 square miles (390 square kilometers) of forest and brush, continued to rage on Saturday, and was only 20 percent contained.

What is left of Paradise is still not safe: "It is still very early, there is a wind event predicted tonight till Monday morning, red flag for fire again," said Nees, the firefighter.

There are "potential areas that have not burned that can possibly have new fire if embers are thrown," he said.

He and his men are working "so that things don't get any worse."

"Hopefully people will be able to come back," Nees said.

Photos: AFP

California fire death toll rises to 23

The death toll from the most destructive fire to hit California rose to 23 on Saturday as rescue workers recovered more bodies of people killed by the devastating blaze.

Firefighters are battling raging fires at both ends of the state, but there is little hope of containing the flames anytime soon.

"Today, 14 additional bodies were located, which brings our total number to 23," Sheriff Kory Honea told a news conference.

Ten of the bodies were found in the town of Paradise while four were discovered in the Concow area, both in Butte County, Honea said.

Rescuers could be seen removing remains over a period of several hours in Paradise and placing them in a black hearse.

Pieces of bodies were transported by bucket, while intact remains were carried in body bags.

So far, a total of 19 of the people killed in what authorities have dubbed the "Camp Fire" have been reported in Paradise, where more than 6,700 buildings -- most of them residences -- have been consumed by the late-season inferno.

From miles around, acrid smoke could be seen in the sky around Paradise, the sun barely visible. On the ground, cars were reduced to metal carcasses, while power lines were also gnawed by the flames.

Locals fled the danger, but police told AFP some farmers returned to check on their cattle.

"The magnitude of destruction we have seen is really unbelievable and heartbreaking, and our hearts go to everybody who has been affected by this," said Mark Ghilarducci, the director of the California Office of Emergency Services.

Governor-elect Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency to provide assistance to the hardest-hit areas in the fire-prone state.
The fast-moving Camp Fire blaze in the north broke out early Thursday.

Fanned by strong winds, it has so far scorched 100,000 acres (40,500 hectares) and is 20 percent contained, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) said Saturday. So far, three of the more than 3,200 firefighters deployed have been injured.

They estimate they will need three weeks to fully contain the blaze.

Local power authorities have told state officials an outage occurred near the spot where the fire erupted, The Sacramento Bee reported, but there is still no official cause of the Camp Fire blaze.
Trump, who was in France for World War I commemorations, drew criticism online for his somewhat unsympathetic reaction to the devastation earlier on Saturday.

"There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor," Trump tweeted.

"Billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests. Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!"

Malibu mansions in flames

In southern California, more wildfires burned, including one just north of Los Angeles and another in Ventura County near Thousand Oaks, where a Marine Corps veteran shot dead 12 people in a country music bar on Wednesday.

Authorities said some 200,000 people are under mandatory evacuation orders, including the entire city of Malibu.

The "Woolsey Fire" had consumed around 69,000 acres, destroyed at least 150 homes and was so far not contained, the Ventura County Fire Department said, adding that evacuation orders were issued for some 88,000 homes in the county and neighboring Los Angeles County.

"We heard this was coming so we set up the sprinklers and we hosed the whole house down," said Malibu resident Patrick Henry. "We pretty much had enough time to get the dogs in the trunk."
Malibu is one of the most in-demand locations in California for stars seeking privacy and luxury.

Reality TV star Kim Kardashian West, who lives just north of coastal Malibu, revealed she was forced to flee her home.

"I heard the flames have hit our property at our home in Hidden Hills but now are more contained and have stopped at the moment," she said on Twitter. "I just pray the winds are in our favor."

Actor Martin Sheen, briefly reported missing by his actor son Charlie, was also forced to evacuate.

"We're fine, we're at Zuma Beach and we're probably going to sleep in the car tonight," Martin Sheen told Fox News 11, adding that it was the worst fire he had seen in 48 years of living in Malibu.

The wildfire reached Paramount Ranch, destroying the Western Town sets used for hundreds of productions including HBO'S sci-fi western "Westworld," officials and the network said.

Director Guillermo del Toro tweeted that Bleak House, his museum of horror movie memorabilia, was also in the path of the flames.

Utter devastation

In Paradise, the flames destroyed hundreds of homes, a hospital, a gas station, several restaurants and numerous vehicles, officials said.

Mandatory evacuation orders were issued for more than 52,000 people in the scenic area in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains.

The National Weather Service said Saturday that strong winds and dry conditions were to continue through the weekend.

Nine die in California wildfires, tens of thousands forced to flee

Nine people were declared dead and tens of thousands evacuated Friday as fierce wildfires raged across the western US state of California, with one rapidly spreading blaze threatening the famed resort of Malibu.

All of the fatalities were reported in a massive late-season inferno in the town of Paradise, in Butte County north of the state capital Sacramento, where the entire population of 26,000 was ordered to leave, officials said.

The fast moving blaze, known as the "Camp Fire," began Thursday morning. Fanned by strong winds, it has scorched 70,000 acres (28,300 hectares) and has not been contained, the California Fire Department (Cal Fire) said.

Two other fires broke out in southern California, one in Ventura County near Thousand Oaks, where a Marine Corps veteran shot dead 12 people in a country music bar on Wednesday night.

"The magnitude of destruction we have seen is really unbelievable and heartbreaking and our hearts go to everybody who has been affected by this," said Mark Ghilarducci, the director of the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services.

Late Friday Butte County Sheriff Korey Honea updated the Camp Fire death toll.

"It's my sad duty to confirm that we now have a total of nine fatalities," he said, four more fatalities beyond the five reported earlier.

Details were limited, and Honea did not release names of the victims.

"I don't have all of the details because we have investigators out on the field attempting to get to those locations" where the casualties were reported, Honea said at a press conference.

Photos: AP

But he did say that four people were found inside a vehicle in the Paradise area, while another was found nearby outside the vehicle. Three more were found outside a residence, and one inside a house.

Dozens of other people were reported missing.

Comments

Comments