California wildfires kill more than 40 people

World Today

A sign hangs on a wall at the Paradise Elementary School destroyed by the Camp Fire, Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018, in Paradise, Calif. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Strong winds are fueling devastating flames on the West Coast of the U.S., in what officials have called the deadliest wildfire in California history. Firefighters are battling blazes in the north and south of the state.

Infernos have killed at least 44 so far.

CGTN’s Mark Niu filed this report from the town of Paradise in California.

The Northern California town of Paradise turned into ground zero for California’s most destructive fire ever. Lives were lost and homes were destroyed, with hardly anything is left standing.

“Basically, the vegetation is as dry as it’s ever been recorded to the point where the issue that we are running into is pretty much every single ember that flies away from the fire and hits the ground catches on fire,” Rick Carhart, Public Information Officer for CAL FIRE said. 

In a massive effort to help the tens of thousands of evacuees, communities are banding together. The East Avenue Church is one of 22 area pop-up shelters with no NGO affiliations and all volunteers.

Nurse Denise Gunderson evacuated her home, which is still intact as far as she knows. However, her daughter’s home was destroyed, and the hospital she works at is so badly damaged it’s not operating.

Gunderson and a group of nurses, including her daughter, set up a triage system and are making regular rounds to check on the injured.

“I’ve been here for five days. Probably 10-12 hours a day. Pretty much during those hours I don’t think about what my daughter’s lost, what I’ve lost,” Gunderson said. “I walked into this place and immediately ten of the people I saw had been my past patients in a surgical unit. So I know these people.”

Ninety-year-old Paradise resident Patty Saunders narrowly escaped the fire.

“Everywhere we went there was fire,” Saunders explained. “Top, all around, all sides. In front and we kept stopping. The traffic would stop us and then we finally got to a place where you couldn’t go forward or backward. But I looked up and I saw the fire department. A big sign Paradise and a beautiful angel fireman with a big hose. And he was spraying everything and making our cars cool off.”

Patty is a former actress who played a nun in the Oscar-winning musical, The Sound of Music. She says her prayers were truly answered.

Despite the tragic circumstances so many in the region face, they echo that same sentiment, taking some comfort in knowing that someone is watching over them.