The forest fires in California have proved to be unstoppable and operate at high tide. (Reuters)
California is burning again, to the north and south, the deadly and fast flames, fueled by the violent winds of Santa Ana and fed by dry bait. The fire killed at least nine people, set fire to a mountain town and wounded the nerves of tens of thousands of local residents forced to evacuate their homes.
The fires have proved to be unstoppable and lightning so far. The great devastating fire here in southern California, known as the Woolsey Fire, quadrupled on Friday and covered over 22 square kilometers without inclusion. He jumped slightly on the eight-lane highway 101 and walked over the Santa Monica mountains to pose like Malibu, setting fire to homes and cars. The fires finally arrived in his only so far game: the Pacific.
Even worse were the newsletters from the north of the state. At least nine people died in or near their homes or vehicles as they tried to overcome the fire that destroyed the mountain town of Paradise, about 90 miles north of the capital, Sacramento.
Paradise was almost a block of destruction after all, downed power lines, cars burned in the middle of streets, floating pylons and fires throughout the city, even if not much vegetation was left to burn. Random buildings are still in the city of 27,000, but for each surviving building there were dozens that did not make it.
Marc Kessler, 55, a junior high school teacher in heaven, said the smoke was rising on the eve of the Sierra Nevada when he came to work on Thursday.
"The sky went black, you could not say it was day," he said. "It was raining pieces of black soot, coming down like a black blizzard, losing fire everywhere.
Kessler said the authorities told the teachers to forget the laws on seat belts and stack the approximately 200 students who attended the lessons on Thursday morning on their teachers' personal vehicles. He said some desperate parents had come to take their children, and bus drivers were driving through the flames to save the lives of the children.
Kessler said one of the students in his car said, "Oh, look at the moon!"
"I said," It's not the moon. This is the sun, "he recalled, his voice breaking." There were times when there were flames near the vehicles. There were times when you could not see through the smoke. Some of our teachers did not believe they would survive. "
About 23.4 million Californians were under the red flag by Friday, and officials warned that the flames could reach the city of Chico, a university town of over 90,000, about six miles from Paradise. Humans were running for the evacuation.
The campfire had covered 110 square miles and was confined to only 5% on Friday, state officials said, warning that there may be more deaths that they can not confirm until they are able to safely reach smoking quarters. It's a terrifying situation for family members of residents who were last heard when the city and other nearby people were evacuated.
"We did not have much time, it came too fast," said Cory Nichols, a barber who had fled his home in paradise. "We wanted to sell the house, it's not necessary."
California has suffered unprecedented regular fires in recent years, many of which have invaded cities and towns on the edge of the forest in areas with forest fires. In August, the fire of the mendocino complex became the largest forest fire that ever burned over 400,000 hectares. The previous record was set less than a year earlier, when Thomas Fire crossed over 280,000 acres in the Ventura and Santa Barbara districts. In October 2017, 21 forest fires in the heart of the Californian wine country burned nearly 95,000 hectares and 7,000 buildings in the counties of Sonoma and Napa. 40 people were killed.
The Californian fireworks season usually begins in late spring and lasts until summer. But the heat and the dry climate have continued this year in the fall, and the winter rains have yet to come. The winds of Santa Ana, blowing from the Sierra Nevada and towards the west coast, accumulate in howling storms that dry the vegetation and the ground, potentially creating explosive fire conditions.
In Thousand Oaks, 40 miles from downtown Los Angeles, residents lived a brutal week.
This city, which is favored by its inhabitants for clean air and low crime, has already cried after Wednesday night's mass shootings in a country music bar. In a night watch of the city on Thursday night, people had lit candles and were thinking of an unspeakable crime. Only a few hours later, the same area was suffocated by smoke and endangered by Fire Woolsey.
In the darkness before dawn, a gusty wind raised the American flags, attracting half-mast in honor of the victims killed. An orange glow could be seen throughout the city, sometimes jumping in luminous torches along the ridge lines. In the middle of the night, emergency bills grunted on cell phones, sometimes urging evacuations.
"It's dangerous to sleep all night," said Sergio Figueroa, 34, who left his wife in a hotel where he works Friday. Thursday late and early in the morning on Friday, he watched television, knowing that his home was in the "voluntary" evacuation zone. He said he had closed his eyes for an hour – but he did not really sleep.
"They close their eyes and they're up," he said.
At 3 am, streets normally empty at that time were full of parents, children and pets that had been evacuated as the orange glow approached.
"Do not wait too long. Come down if you want to get off," said Uber Brent Young, 52, who was about to take a client from Thousand Oaks to Los Angeles International Airport via a detour that would drive around closed roads and dangerous conditions,
The problem was finding the way to go. In many places there was a fire. Even before the Woolsey Fire began, another violent fire, the hill fire, threatened the houses west of the city. Highway 101 has been blocked at different times for two different fires in both directions. The only thing that hampered Hill Fire was that in 2013 it entered a fire and fuel was running out of gas, the authorities said.
Peggy Smith, 64, a long-term resident, filled her gas depot at 4am on Friday at a mobile station in an area that had been voluntarily evacuated. He said people had gathered in Thousand Oaks in the '60s after airline pilots on the flight to Los Angeles found out that there was no smog here. The pilots moved, then the police and firemen.
It was ready for the fire. It took only 10 minutes to load his car with his favorite pictures, important documents, clothes and food.
"My son is a fireman, I was married to a fireman, I'm not afraid," Smith said. "I have full confidence in our firefighters."
They were busy. The trucks crossed the neighborhoods and ran along the 101 freeway.
Wendy Eldredge, 54, drove to work as usual, at Noah's Bagels, near the highway at five o'clock in the afternoon so the doors could open at 6 o'clock.
"What am I driving?" He wondered. "How can I go out?"
He went to work and opened the door, the only one who was in the only place where commercial miles were available. "I did not want to disappoint people," he said.
The dawn came in, a gust of smoke blew out the sun.
The Woolsey Fire came from the north, not in a single wall of flame, but jumped.
"It's crazy," said Paige Gordon, a real estate agent who checked a million-dollar friend's house in Westlake Village when the flames swallowed the dry brush. "We set all aspects of Ventura County on fire."
As he set the sprinklers in his friend's backyard, a blaze fired on the side of the hill caught his attention: "There's fire right there!"
The smoke poured over Thousand Oaks like a storm. The black cloud slowly moved toward the sea as it crossed hills covered with black stubble.
In Malibu, the thirty-five-year-old film and television producer Ben Rosenblatt gave a glance at the approaching fire and realized that he had to get out quickly. He just had time to go with the dog first. There are not many roads in and around Malibu, with roads winding through the gorges through the fire. This left the Pacific Coast Highway, where traffic moved during a vine. The trip to Santa Monica would have taken 35 minutes, but the navigation app on her phone said it was 2 hours and 35 minutes.
"It's like a slow-motion ride with huge clouds of fire behind you and shock absorbers before impact," Rosenblatt said. "Remember every catastrophic film you saw, where you're trying to overcome the storm, but it's happening so slowly."
Back in Thousand Oaks, the smoke dropped and then swelled up like a rekindled fire. In a youth center set up as a displaced for those who escaped, people became nervous when they saw the flames on a nearby hill.
In the parking lot, people slept in their cars next to dogs and cats, their belongings in the back.
Mary Leighton, 57, originally from West Lake, had just gone to bed Thursday night when her brother had known they had to evacuate.
"Think, what are you taking?" "He said." My mind stopped. "
Five minutes later, as she carried the ashes of her husband and her pumpkin cat, she and her family disappeared. They slept at night in an animal shelter and woke up on Friday morning with news that the houses in their neighborhood had been burned. Leighton did not know if his house had survived.
He then recalled the mass shooting at the border: "I do not understand why this city has been hit so hard".
She and her family did not have cribs at the shelter until four in the morning, she said. Leighton slept until 9 in the morning and woke up to find a plan on what to do next. She sat in the parking lot all morning in a white Volvo, still in her pajamas.
"I can not find any information, I do not know what's going on," he said. "I have nothing, I do not know anything."
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Williams, a freelance journalist from California, reported from Paradise, California. Bever reported from Washington. Katie Zezima from Thousand Oaks' Washington Post and freelance journalist Noah Smith from Santa Monica, California contributed to the report.
(Except for the title, this story has not been modified by NDTV staff and will be published by a syndicated feed.)