Northern California wildfire most destructive in state history
The wildfire that has been raging through northern California since Thursday, which has killed nine people so far, is considered to be the most destructive in the state’s history, having destroyed more than 6,500 structures and engulfed nearly the entire city of Paradise, home to 26,000 people.
California emergency services officials confirmed during a press conference on Saturday that the “Camp Fire” has destroyed 6,453 homes, 260 commercial structures and 40,500 hectares (100,000 acres), while firefighters have only managed to contain 20 percent of the blaze.
Nine people were confirmed to have been killed by the fire, including five that were found in or near their vehicles and four in or near their homes, though 35 people are still missing.
The heavy traffic caused by the evacuations led many people to abandon their vehicles and flee by foot, which in turn caused more traffic and created a chaotic situation.
The strong winds and the dry conditions in the area have led to a rapid expansion of the fire.
The smoke has even reached San Francisco, some 280 km (174 mi) southwest of the blaze, leading authorities to issue an air quality alert.
In addition to the Camp Fire, two other large wildfires have hit southern California, the largest of which is the “Woolsey Fire,” having devastated 28,000 hectares (nearly 70,000 acres) northwest of Los Angeles.
Two bodies were found in the beach town of Malibu, home to many Hollywood celebrities, though the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department said in a statement that authorities have not yet determined if the two people died because of the fire or for other reasons.
The Woolsey Fire has destroyed dozens of homes in Malibu, Calabasas and Thousand Oaks, where a former US Marine killed 12 people at a bar on Wednesday night before taking his own life.
More than 250,000 homes have been evacuated throughout the state, including the homes of celebrities such as Lady Gaga, Kim Kardashian, Guillermo del Toro, Cher, Charlie Sheen, Martin Sheen, Roma Downey, Alyssa Milano, Rainn Wilson, Eddie McClintock and Melissa Etheridge .
On Saturday morning, US President Donald Trump blamed California authorities’ “gross mismanagement of the forests” for the scale of the damages, threatening to withhold federal aid.
“There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor. Billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests,” Trump wrote on Twitter.
“Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!,” the president added.
On Friday, Trump approved an emergency declaration for California, which provides federal assistance to the affected areas.