RAVAGED BY FIRE, California Continues to Struggle!
As the death toll from wildfires ravaging both ends of California climbed on Sunday, powerful winds swept through the state, stretching firefighting resources to the limit.
At least 31 people have died in the fires: 29 in Northern California’s Camp fire and two in Southern California’s Woolsey fire.
The Camp fire — the most destructive fire in state history and one of the deadliest — virtually burned the town of Paradise to the ground, destroying thousands of homes and structures.
There are 228 people still unaccounted for as a result of the blaze, Butte County Sheriff and Coroner Kory Honea told reporters Sunday evening.
The Woolsey fire continues to be a major blaze, displacing hundreds of thousands of residents as it moves east, including several celebrities. Firefighters on Sunday managed to contain flareups generated by high winds in Los Angeles County. But officials warned that the dry conditions feeding the fire are expected to continue into the week.
“This is not the new normal, this is the new abnormal,” Gov. Jerry Brown said of the role of climate change. “The chickens are coming home to roost, this is real here.”
Neil Young, Robin Thicke, Gerard Butler and Miley Cyrus are among those whose houses were ravaged by the Woolsey fire raging north of Los Angeles in Southern California, according to the entertainers’ respective online posts.
Butler posted a photo on Twitter of the charred remains of his Malibu home and thanked firefighters for their courage.
Cyrus said on Twitter that she was “completely devastated” by the fires affecting her community.
“I am one of the lucky ones. My animals and LOVE OF MY LIFE made it out safely & that’s all that matters right now. My house no longer stands but the memories shared with family & friends stand strong. I am grateful for all I have left. Sending so much love and gratitude to the firefighters and LA county Sheriff’s department! “
Here are the latest developments:
• The Camp Fire, which killed 29 people in Paradise, has already burned more than 110,000 acres and is only about 25 percent contained.
• Sheriff Honea said late Sunday that 228 people were still unaccounted for in Northern California.
• Firefighters battling the Woolsey Fire in Southern California were preparing for it to get worse over the next few days. Two people have died in that fire, which is 20 percent contained and has charred more than 90,000 acres in communities like Malibu and Thousand Oaks.
• Another blaze that has torn through 4,500 acres in Ventura County, the Hill Fire, was 75 percent contained.
• Traffic compounded the problems of those trying to escape.
Acts of heroism at a Paradise hospital as the town burned
Allyn Pierce got in his pickup truck and tried to race out of town when the fire swept through Paradise on Thursday. But he hit a wall of flames and was forced to turn around. Dozens of people are grateful that he did. Mr. Pierce helped lead what is being described by many as a heroic effort to treat the wounded in Paradise.
Trapped in traffic as flames licked at the side of his truck, Mr. Pierce watched other cars catch fire and thought his was next. He held his coat against the window — a futile guard from the intense heat — and put on Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” to calm himself. He recorded a goodbye message to his family. “Just in case this doesn’t work out, I want you to know I really tried to make it out,” he recalled.
“Then all of a sudden this bulldozer comes out of nowhere and knocks this burning truck out of the way,” he said. Suddenly there was some room to maneuver. But instead of going forward toward safety, he turned around and headed back into the heart of Paradise, where the fire came from.
Mr. Pierce ended up back at Paradise’s main hospital, Adventist Health Feather River, where he manages the Intensive Care Unit. There he found other colleagues, who were also turned back by the fire, as well as injured Paradise residents looking for medical help.
Adventist Health doctors and nurses, along with paramedics, firefighters and other emergency workers, set up a triage center in the hospital parking lot. They broke into the hospital for gurneys, oxygen tanks, intravenous bags and other gear and quickly went to work, treating about two dozen people while the fire raged around them. “We all worked together — no egos,” Mr. Pierce said. “It was kind of joyful, and amazing to watch it all work.”
Then the hospital caught fire next to the triage center. As firefighters fought the flames, the rest of the staff relocated the patients and equipment about 100 yards away to the hospital’s helipad, the only other area of asphalt somewhat safe from the fire. Eventually highway patrol officers said they had cleared a path toward safety, so the team loaded the victims into vehicles and drove in a caravan out of Paradise. Everyone made it out safely.
“This is what we do,” Mr. Pierce said. “I’m not trying to be brave, but any nurse, any health care worker, any cop, they were there and they all did their jobs and they all did it well.”
“The New Normal”
“This is not the new normal, this is the new abnormal,” Gov. Jerry Brown said of the role of climate change in driving the fires. “The chickens are coming home to roost, this is real here.”
Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby echoed Brown’s sentiments, noting how widespread the fire destruction has been across the state.
The southern part of the state used to be able to rely on help from their counterparts up north around this time of the year, Osby said, when the threat of fire was much less prevalent in those communities. But that’s no longer the case.
“And as evident by the Camp Fire in Northern California — which is larger than this, more structures have been lost than this, more lives have been lost — it’s evident from that situation statewide that we’re in climate change and it’s going to be here for the foreseeable future,” Osby said.
Firefighters on Sunday contained significant flare-ups in wind-prone canyons along the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu and Bell Canyon in Ventura County, Osby said.
Unfavorable conditions are expected to persist into Monday, threatening new flare-ups that could reach beyond containment lines, Osby said.
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