Calif. wildfires: At least 9 dead, 6,700 structures lost

Saturday brought a break in the fierce winds that have whipped the three major wildfires in California that have destroyed a record number of buildings and displaced more than 300,000 people.

The firefighters are on a minimum 14-day assignment where they will be asked to perform tasks including wildfire suppression, acting as backfill for local fire departments and staging for new fire starts if winds alter the fire growth patterns.

The entire coastal enclave of Malibu also was under evacuation orders, with Lady Gaga, Kim Kardashian West and Guillermo del Toro among numerous celebrities forced to abandon their homes.

Large wildfires have prompted evacuations of more than 150,000 people in areas near Sacramento and Los Angeles.

The entire town was ordered evacuated, setting off a desperate exodus in which many motorists got stuck in gridlocked traffic and abandoned their cars to flee foot.

The mayor of Paradise said that only 10 to 20 percent of homes in the town were left standing.

But the flames didn't discriminate, burning everything from mobile homes to mansions.

Five of the dead panicked when they couldn't escape by vehicle because their route was cut off by a wall of fire, said Gabriel Fallon, who rode out the blaze with his parents to care for the horses, cows and livestock on their 10-acre farm in Paradise.

Firefighters said that "pretty much all of the community", which is 180 miles north-east of San Francisco, had been destroyed. "It's that kind of devastation", he said.

The blaze broke out early Thursday and has grown at an astonishing rate of 80 football fields per minute.

Spectrum customers in the wildfire area were without cable and Internet service Saturday morning as fix teams worked to restore service, a statement from the company said. The utility's filing was first reported by KQED News.

The fires have spread to more than 170,000 acres and threaten to destroy tens of thousands of structures, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire. The blaze sent residents fleeing, and now threatens the city of Chico, home to 90,000 people.

On Saturday, a probe was underway to determine if two deaths in Malibu were related to the Woolsey Fire, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Office said.

The second image, captured by NASA's Terra satellite, gives a better sense of the scope of the Camp Fire in relation to the state.

He said he evacuated his family and then returned to the fire to help rescue several disabled residents, including a man carrying his bedridden wife to safety.

"We were surrounded by fire".

A Cal Fire firefighter climbs a ladder by a burning structure while battling the Camp Fire in Paradise, California, U.S., November 9, 2018.

Ms Miller jumped in her boyfriend's pick-up truck, which was low on petrol and equipped with a bad transmission. "I'm devastated by all that's happening", she said. After an hour of no movement, she abandoned the truck and chose to try her luck on foot. This is terrifying. I can't breathe.

An AFP photographer on the scene saw houses enveloped in flames, while others had already been reduced to ashes and cars burned to husks.

Butte County Sheriff Korey Honea said four people were found dead inside a vehicle in the Paradise area, while another was found nearby.

  • Rogelio Becker