A destructive and fast-moving wildfire broke out in northern California on Thursday morning, spreading rapidly due to a mixture of twenty howling and extremely dry conditions.
The camp fire, in the county of Butte, north of the state capital, Sacramento, was burned about 18,000 acres starting from Thursday evening and 0% was contained while officials were quick to evacuate the inhabitants of the area. He injured an unknown number of civilians and two firefighters, officials said at a press conference on Thursday. The interim governor Gavin Newsom (D) declared a state of emergency.
Social media have been inundated with apocalyptic images of smoke-filled skies and orange neon horizon lines in what is becoming a family ritual. Others have taken on Twitter to post messages about missing family members. The city of Paradise, California, population of 27,000, was evacuated, officials reported to local journalists, as well as the neighboring communities of Pulga and Concow.
Colton Percifield, 20, said in an interview he woke up at a friend's house in Concow to find the smoke out around 7:00 am. Macchia fires soon invaded the home.
"Within half an hour, the whole place was on fire," he said. At 8:20, the house was burning.
The perpetrator left in his pickup truck for an emergency meeting place in a field outside the city, finding himself on an empty road with the fire an inferno swelling on either side of the road that surrounded him. A video that has captured captures the infernal conditions that he has described; Thick smoke and heat surrounded the truck as the temperature rose inside, while sparks and giant flames licked the roof over his head in pitch-black darkness. At one point, a branch of a tree fell into his car, destroying the windshield and denting his hood.
Percifield said he drove off-road a few times in poor visibility, but eventually managed to reach a lawn that is maintained for residents in the event of a fire. He said people were talking about Concow's neighbors who had not managed to escape from their homes.
The fire started early in the morning near Pulga, a small community surrounded by the Plumas National Forest, officials said. The first firefighters to arrive have found some 10-15 acres that burn. Wind gusts of up to 49 miles have helped to accelerate their growth.
And officials have warned that the situation could change rapidly. Cal Darren Read's chief of firefighters told reporters that about 1,500 first responders were on-site or en-route, as well as 300 fire trucks, 20 bulldozers, aircraft and other support vehicles.
According to the Sacramento Bee journalist, Ryan Lillis, around 60-70 people were waiting for an emergency evacuation to Walgreen's Paradise.
"Firefighters ask for buses to get them out" he reported.
The Adventist Health Feather River in the city caught fire as the firemen fought the flames, writes Lillis. The parent company of the hospital was not reached for comment.
The evacuation routes were blocked by people trying to escape the growing fire, the Sacramento Bee reported, and the first responders expressed concern about the possibility of escape.
Many people have turned to social media to record their discomfort.
"My mother is trapped with other drivers on Pearson Rd in Paradise with burning houses nearby" tweeted @jdpiersoniv. "People leave vehicles and run with children and pets".
More than 20,000 people were evacuated, reported the San Francisco Chronicle.
Cal Fire officials warned that the blaze could enter the city of Chico, a university town of about 93,000 about six miles from Paradise.
"Right now, Mother Nature is responsible," spokeswoman Bryce Bennett told the bee.
The National Weather Service had predicted dangerous weather forecasts in California because of the Santa Ana winds, roaring from the east and accelerating along the mountainous slopes facing north and south of California.
The red flag warnings for "adverse weather conditions" were in place not only for the Sacramento valley but also through central and southern California. Wind gusts of 50 miles at the time were expected in many locations.
The gusts that blow down the mountain slopes not only the flames of the fans, but also dry the earth's surface, lowering the relative humidity levels to 10% – creating powder conditions for the spread of fire.
There were 23.4 million Californians under the warnings with red flag Thursday at the beginning of Friday, after which the winds are expected to relax, giving rescuers the improvement of the conditions to fight the blaze.
California has suffered unprecedented debilitating fires in recent years. In August, the Mendocino complex fire became the biggest fire ever recorded in the state, ending up burning more than 400,000 hectares. The previous record was set less than a year earlier in another catastrophic fire that burned over 280,000 hectares in the counties of Ventura and Santa Barbara. In October 2017, about 21 fires burned nearly 95,000 acres and 7,000 buildings in the counties of Sonoma and Napa in the heart of the Californian wine country, killing 40 people.