Wildfires stretch across more than 100 square miles of Southern California

World Today

Wildfires stretch across more than 100 square miles of Southern CaliforniaFirefighters push down a wall while battling against a burning apartment complex in Paradise, north of Sacramento, California on November 09, 2018. – A rapidly spreading, late-season wildfire in northern California has burned 20,000 acres of land and prompted authorities to issue evacuation orders for thousands of people. As many as 1000 homes, a hospital, a Safeway store and scores of other structures have burned in the area as the Camp fire tore through the region. (Photo by Josh Edelson / AFP)

Two people were found dead and scores of houses from the celebrity mansions of Malibu to the mobile homes of seniors in the suburbs burned in a pair of wildfires that stretched across more than 100 square miles of Southern California, authorities said Saturday.

Fire is still burning out of control up and down the state as hundreds of thousands of residents flee their homes. Nearly a dozen people have been killed so far and officials say, the fires are no where near contained. 

CGTN’s May Lee reports from Malibu. 

In Southern California, 30,000 hectares (116 square miles) have burned. People have died and scores of homes destroyed.

Tens of thousands have been forced to evacuate with no idea if they would have a home to go back to.

Evacuee Roman Fomemko didn’t have high hopes for his house.  “I think it’s burned. I think it’s burned because the neighbor’s house I can see, it already started to burn.”

Patrick Henry fled from his home in Malibu. “We heard this was coming so we set up on the sprinklers and we hosed the whole house down, and we pretty much had enough time to get the dogs in the trunk.”

In Northern California, the devastation is far worse. The Camp fire has charred 36,000 hectares (139 square miles), so far. The town of Paradise is gone. At least nine people have been killed and 6,700 structures lost, the most in California fire history.

Butte County Sheriff Kory L. Honea says, “This event was the worst-case scenario. It’s the event that we have feared for a long time and over the course of the years, we have worked hard to develop a plan to evacuate people in this event. That said you need to understand that factors can exist that make even the best plans not perfect or not the exact outcome that you want. And in this case we had a fire that was moving very, very rapidly – being pushed by some very, very strong winds.”

California wildfires burn homes, create haze in Malibu

The massive fires have been fueled by very dry conditions because of the ongoing drought in California and the strong Santa Ana winds, that reached up to 100 kilometers per hour (62 mph) at times.

In the coastal city of Malibu, mandatory evacuations left the exclusive beachfront town deserted. But these newlyweds from Indiana were trying to walk to their rented condo so they could pack up and go home.

“So what are you thinking, this was supposed to be your honeymoon?” May asked, “Yeah it started off great. And then wow…it escalated into this fire. Was not expecting this at all.” said Brian Hoeffel.

Saturday has brought some relief as the heavy winds have died down and that’s giving fire fighters a chance to take on the fires from the ground and in the air.

But the winds are going to come back with a vengeance starting Sunday morning for several days and that will fuel these raging fires once again, which means the dangers are far from over.