PARADISE (CBS SF) — A fast-moving wildfire has driven thousands of residents of the Butte County town of Paradise from their homes, forcing some to abandon their cars during their flight to safety.
Fueled by 50 mph winds, the wall of flames from the Camp Fire roared through 6,000 acres by Thursday afternoon. The Sacramento Bee reported that desperate residents abandoned their vehicles as they fled the foothill town.
Emergency personnel were forced to push the cars off the roads being used for the exodus.
“The whole lower side of Paradise is totally engulfed in flames,” evacuee Kevin Winstead told Action News Now reporter Laura Eng. “The Pacifica, Princeton area, Neal Road and the Feather River Hospital all engulfed in flames right now.”
“Not one home will be left standing. I am devastated. We just bought a home in Upper Magalia right now, and we’re hoping that our brand-new home that we just get to move into tomorrow is not going to be burned to the ground. We’re kind of all shaking right now. So we grabbed our animals and some food and clothes and we’re getting the heck out of here.”
Local resident Alan Ingram took to social media to document to exodus.
@kris33103343 also posted videos of the fire on Twitter.
A hospital and 11 schools were forced to evacuate patients and students as the fire, which was sparked early Thursday, got uncomfortably close.
”Given the Butte County fire is within close proximity, as a precaution Adventist Health Feather River Medical Center is evacuating all patients. All patients are being transported to surrounding area hospitals,” a statement said.
The patients were taken to Oroville Hospital and Enloe Medical Center, the statement said.
The fire also forced the evacuation of every school in Paradise, as well as a school in Concow to the east, school officials said. The 3,300 students at the 11 schools in Paradise were being transported down a ridge in buses and staff members’ vehicles to an evacuation center in Chico, Butte County Schools Superintendent Tim Taylor said.
The Concow School sent its 60 students home shortly after the blaze, but many faculty members are worried about their homes, said Golden Feather Union Elementary School District Superintendent Josh Peete.
“Luckily, the fire broke out early enough that there were only a few students there and we had a plan. We were able to get them home pretty quick,” he said. “By the time we got out, the flames were a half mile away from the school. We tried to get all the nondigital things that we could — you know, stuff that couldn’t be replaced.”
Butte College also closed Thursday morning, not because of the fire but so that fire personnel can use the campus as a staging area, the school said. Later, the sheriff’s office included the campus in its evacuation orders.
Jillian Smalley escaped her neighborhood as fire consumed everything around her. Flames and cinders crawled along the ground and up trees as she, her mother and grandmother fled the area. The smoke was so thick it appeared she was driving at night.
En route to her sister’s house in Chico, she told CNN she didn’t have high hopes that her home survived: “It’s probably gone already. It can’t be there anymore.”
Allana Hall captured photos of low-hanging black smoke stretching for miles as she and her boyfriend evacuated Paradise. It’s the second time Hall has fled a California fire, she said.
“We had to drive through flames to make it out safely,” she said. “I’m moving to Mammoth (Lake) the end of this month so we may head there early.”
The wildfire has been moving southwest through Paradise, a town of about 26,000, said Lynne Tolmachoff, chief of public education for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, aka Cal Fire.
“It started in Pulga, came across to Concow and down into Paradise. It’s been hopscotching the ridges,” she said.
Mandatory evacuation orders have been issued for:
- Highway 70 from Concow South including all of Yankee Hill on both sides of 70.
- Paradise: Fire zones 2,3,6 and 13
- Pentz Road from Paradise south to Highway 70
- All of Paradise is under mandatory evacuation except for Lower Clark Road, Lower Neil Road and Lower Skyway Road.
- Magalia: Carnegie Zone, North Pines Zone, North Fire Haven Zone, South Fire Haven Zone, South Pine Zone, Old Magalia Zone and South Coutelenc Zone
- Centerville and Butte Creek areas
- From Pentz Road & Highway 70 south to Highway 149, including Butte College
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