Red Flag Warning in Northern California, 1,000’s Flee Wildfire
Tens of thousands of people fled a fast-moving wildfire Thursday in Northern California, some clutching babies and pets as they abandoned vehicles and struck out on foot ahead of the flames that forced the evacuation of an entire town.
Everyone in Paradise, a community of 27,000 people about 180 miles northeast of San Francisco, was ordered to get out. The extent of the injuries and damage was not immediately known.
Butte County CalFire Chief Darren Read said at a news conference that two firefighters and multiple residents were injured.
Authorities were working on a plan to remove patients from a hospital after rescuers had to turn back because of gridlocked traffic.
“It’s a very dangerous and very serious situation,” Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said. “I’m driving through fire as we speak. We’re doing everything we can to get people out of the affected areas.”
Officials were sending as many firefighters as they could, Cal Fire spokesman Rick Carhart said.
“Every engine that we could put on the fire is on the fire right now, and more are coming,” he said. “There are dozens of strike teams that we’re bringing in from all parts of the state.”
The Sheriff confirmed reports that evacuees had to abandon their vehicles. He said rescuers were trying to put them in other vehicles.
“We are working very hard to get people out. The message I want to get out is if you can evacuate, you need to evacuate,” Sherrif Honea said.
The wildfire was reported around daybreak. Within 6 hours, it had grown to more than 26 square miles.
The blaze is being driven by fairly strong winds. It is really dry and we have low humidity, and unfortunately those are great conditions for a fire to spread.
Thick grey smoke and ash filled the sky above Paradise and could be seen from miles away.
At the hospital with the stranded patients, some buildings caught fire and were damaged, but the main facility, Adventist Health Feather River Hospital, was not, a spokeswoman said.
Four hospital employees were briefly trapped in the basement and rescued by California Highway Patrol officers, she said.
More than 40 patients were evacuated to other facilities, 20 others were still awaiting rescue.
The National Weather Service issued Red Flag warnings for fire dangers in many areas of the state, saying low humidity and strong winds were expected to continue through Friday evening.