Published: Fri, November 16, 2018
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

At least nine dead as fire incinerates northern California town

At least nine dead as fire incinerates northern California town

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

Mark Ghilarducci, of the California governor's office, said: "The magnitude of the destruction of the fire is unbelievable and heartbreaking".

But he also took to Twitter to criticise forest management in the state as "poor", threatening to revoke federal funding for California forest management unless action was taken to prevent future fires.

Elsewhere, the Hill Fire in Ventura County's Santa Rosa Valley had charred about 6,000 acres (2,428 hectares) as of Friday evening, according to Cal Fire. "I'm just fit to be tied".

The Woolsey blaze also destroyed the home of Dr Strange director Scott Derrickson and the historic Paramount Ranch where HBO's Westworld and many other shows have been filmed.

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The two fires erupted on Thursday as much of the state found itself under red flag warnings of extreme fire danger because of dry weather and blowing winds.

"The preliminary investigation revealed that the victims were located in vehicles that were overcome by the Camp Fire", said a statement, adding that they had yet to be identified.

Residents spoke of flames approaching their vehicles on the gridlocked roads and said electricity poles came crashing down.

A row of burned vehicles are seen on Skyway during the Camp Fire in Paradise. No new growth was reported on the larger of the two fires, which stands at 109 square miles (282 square kilometers), and firefighters now have the blaze 5 percent contained.

California has been granted federal funds to battle devastating wildfires that have destroyed entire neighborhoods and killed at least five people. Over 20 people have been found dead as a result of the fire.

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"This was a rapidly moving fire", Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea told the Chico Enterprise-Record.

In the north of the state, people reported seeing much of the town of Paradise, where the blaze started, go up in flames, including homes, supermarkets, businesses, restaurants, schools and a retirement centre. It was unclear how many homes have been evacuated within the City of Los Angeles. There also were reports of flames ripping through an apartment building and a mobile home park, along with people calling authorities to say they were trapped in burning structures.

But officials know the gusts will be back Sunday and most evacuation orders remain in place.

The lull allowed firefighters to gain 10 per cent control of the Woolsey fire, which has burned more than 130 square miles (335 square kilometres) in western Los Angeles County and southeastern Ventura County since Thursday.

"There was really no firefight involved", McLean said, explaining that crews gave up on attacking the flames and instead helped people evacuate. "It wouldn't surprise me" if it turns out that winds caused equipment failure that sparked a fire, he said.

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In Los Angeles and Ventura counties, a significant number of homes were destroyed or damaged, fire officials said.

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