Home / World News / California wildfire causes mass evacuation as firenado destroys homes

California wildfire causes mass evacuation as firenado destroys homes

AS THOUSANDS are forced from their homes and numerous highways are shut down, residents have taken to social media to document large fires and unusual cloud formations.

Apocalyptic scenes surround them as they flee for their lives, thousands of homes reportedly burning across numerous neighbourhoods including Malibu, Paradise, Oak Park and Thousand Oaks.

The fire currently showing no signs of slowing, with a reported 2000 firefighters attempting to being to blaze under control. Many highways have been closed making mass evacuations difficult. Residents have taken to social media to document the apocalyptic scenes around them as they run for their lives.

Rare fire clouds are rising over the Golden State as an enormous fire ravages thousands of homes, leaving thousands affected. The clouds, often caused by volancic eruptions, are called pyrocumulus clouds and are extraordinarily rare.

Social media users have shared harrowing videos of the fire, which appeared to collide with a storm becoming a “firenado”.

One video showed a father comforting his daughter as they nervously drove down a smouldering highway.

In the footage, the man can be seen honking at other driveways while his confused daughter asks questions about the fire and begs to go home.

media_cameraTerrifying footage of the Californian firenado.

“Hey guess what? We’re not gonna catch on fire, okay?” the father says in the video, trying to stay upbeat. “We’re gonna be just fine, and we’re doing all right.”

Clearly frightened, the little girl requests to go home.

“We’ll come back when it’s more ‘Princess Poppy” okay?” he responds, while nervously honking his horn.

Hollywood power couple Kim Kardashian and Kanye West have been evacuated from their home in Hidden Hills as the wildfire continues to spread and threatens a plethora of celebrity homes in the gated neighbourhood, which lies in the suburb of Calabasas.

Caitlyn Jenner earlier lost her home as the fire has spread from the suburb of Paradise to Malibu, according to TMZ.

media_cameraKim Kardashian West and Kanye West’s home have been evacuated in Californian wildfire.

WILDFIRE RIPS THROUGH CALIFORNIA

A Northern California wildfire that moved so fast firefighters didn’t even try to stop it killed five people, authorities said Friday as the blaze quadrupled in size after levelling much of a town of nearly 30,000 people.

Only a day after it began, the blaze near the town of Paradise had grown to nearly 110 square miles (285 square kilometres), and investigators found the dead in vehicles that were torched by the flames.

“There was really no firefight involved,” said Captain Scott McLean of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, explaining that crews gave up attacking the flames and instead helped people get out alive. “These firefighters were in the rescue mode all day yesterday.”

With fires also burning in Southern California, state officials put the total number of people forced from their homes at 157,000.

Evacuation orders included the entire city of Malibu, which is home to 13,000, among them some of Hollywood’s biggest stars.

When Paradise was evacuated, the order set off a desperate exodus in which many motorists got struck in gridlocked traffic and abandoned their vehicles to flee on foot. People reported seeing much of the community go up in flames, including homes, supermarkets, businesses, restaurants, schools and a retirement centre. Rural areas fared little better. Many homes have propane tanks that were exploding amid the flames. “They were going off like bombs,” said Karen Auday, who escaped to a nearby town.

media_cameraA home burns in Malibu, California. Picture: Ringo H.W. Chiu

McLean estimated that the lost buildings numbered in the thousands in Paradise, about 180 miles (290 kilometres) northeast of San Francisco. “Pretty much the community of Paradise is destroyed. It’s that kind of devastation,” he said.

The massive blaze that hit Paradise spread north Friday, prompting officials to order the evacuation of Stirling City and Inskip, two communities north of Paradise along the Sierra Nevada foothills.

The wind-driven flames also spread to the west and reached the edge of Chico, a city of 90,000 people. Firefighters were able to stop the fire at the edge of the city, where evacuation orders remained in place Friday, Cal Fire Cpt. Bill Murphy said.

media_cameraA structure burns near Malibu lake. Picture: /Ringo H.W. Chiu

Wind in the valley calmed down, but they were still shifting and erratic along the ridgetops, with speeds of up to 45 mph (72 kph), he said. With ash falling and the sky darkening to a menacing shade of black, evacuees from Paradise sat in stunned silence Friday outside a Chico church where they took refuge the night before. They all had harrowing tales of a slow-motion escape from a fire so close they could feel the heat inside their vehicles as they sat stuck in a terrifying traffic jam.

When the order came to evacuate, it was like the entire town of 27,000 residents decided to leave at once, they said. Fire surrounded the evacuation route, and drivers panicked. Some crashed and others left their vehicles by the roadside. “It was just a wall of fire on each side of us, and we could hardly see the road in front of us,” police officer Mark Bass said.

A nurse called Rita Miller on Thursday morning, telling her she had to get her disabled mother, who lives a few blocks away, and flee Paradise immediately. Miller jumped in her boyfriend’s rickety pick-up truck, which was low on gas and equipped with a bad transmission. She instantly found herself stuck in gridlock. “I was frantic,” she said. After an hour of no movement, she abandoned the truck and decided to try her luck on foot.

media_cameraShocking photos have revealed the extent of the firenado as it spreads across California.

While walking, a stranger in the traffic jam rolled down her window asked Miller if she needed help. Miller at first she scoffed at the notion of getting back in a stopped car. The she reconsidered, thinking: “I’m really scared, this is terrifying, I can’t breathe, I can’t see and maybe I should humble myself and get in this woman’s car.”

The stranger ended up helping Miller pack up her mother and taking them to safety in Chico. It took three hours to travel the 14 miles from Paradise to Chico.

Concerned friends and family posted frantic messages on Twitter and other sites saying they were looking for loved ones, particularly seniors who lived at retirement homes or alone.

About 20 of the same deputies who were helping to find and rescue people lost their own homes. The department was trying to find them temporary housing, Sheriff Kory Honea said.

“There are times when you have such rapid-moving fires … no amount of planning is going to result in a perfect scenario, and that’s what we had to deal with here,” Honea told the Action News Network.

He said ash in the air was so thick that it “looked like midnight” in the middle of the day.

media_cameraVehicles lie broken and abandoned after they were ravaged by the flames in northern California.

Kelly Lee called shelters looking for her husband’s 93-year-old grandmother, Dorothy Herrera, who was last heard from Thursday morning.

Herrera, who lives in Paradise with her 88-year-old husband, Lou, left a frantic voicemail around 9:30am saying they needed to get out.

“We never heard from them again,” Lee said. “We’re worried sick. … They do have a car, but they both are older and can be confused at times.”

In Southern California, the Los Angeles County Fire Department tweeted that the fire raging through the Santa Monica Mountains was headed to the ocean. Another fire was burning farther west in Ventura County, also moving toward the ocean.

The National Weather Service issued extreme fire-danger warnings in many areas of the state, saying low humidity and strong winds were expected to continue through the evening.

— Additional reporting by AP

Originally published as California consumed in apocalyptic scenes

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