California was ablaze this weekend — with massive, fast-spreading wildfires claiming 25 lives, while forcing a quarter-million people from their homes, including in celebrity-thronged Malibu, according to reports.
In the north, near Sacramento, flames left homes and cars reduced to smoking rubble, while in the south, lines of fire bore down on more houses as billowing, dense smoke filled the sky.
At least nine people were found dead in the 100,000-acre fire raging near the northern California town of Paradise.
More than 6,700 of the town’s buildings were leveled in the state’s most destructive wildfire since record-keeping began.
“It is what we feared for a long time,” said Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea.
One evacuee, Brynn Parrott Chatfield, prayed as her family used a dashcam to record their efforts to escape.
“Heavenly father, please help us, please help us to be safe,” Chatfield says in footage obtained by the Daily Mail, her voice cracking as flames lick the pavement and smoke obscures the roadway ahead.
Blackened husks of cars and buses were strewn about roadways in apocalyptic scenes, photos showed, as the chaotic evacuation caused widespread gridlock and forced many people to abandon their vehicles and flee on foot.
“The fire was so close I could feel it in my car through rolled-up windows,” said Rita Miller, who fled Paradise with her disabled mother.
A toxic yellow haze tinted the air as rescuers tried to get not just people, but animals including horses and a potbelly pig to safety.
Officials ordered evacuations southeast of Paradise on Saturday, as more than 3,000 firefighters battled the flames and forecasters called for heavy winds.
While the cause has not been determined, radio transmissions indicated a Pacific Gas & Electric Co. power line was sparking in the area when the now-156-square-mile blaze began Thursday, according to a report.
President Trump on Twitter slammed California’s “gross mismanagement” of state forests for the “massive, deadly and costly” fires, and threatened to withhold federal aid.
The “attacking” message is “ill-informed, ill-timed and demeaning” to the victims, the California Professional Firefighters union responded, calling Trump’s Saturday tweet “dangerously wrong.”
The group noted “nearly 60 percent of California forests are under federal management.”
Two separate wildfires have burned scores of Malibu mansions and suburban homes north and west of downtown LA.
Two people were found dead along a highway in Malibu, but authorities in Los Angeles did not offer further details.
One of the fires more than doubled in size Saturday. “Our firefighters have been facing some extreme, tough fire conditions that they said they’ve never seen in their lives,” LA County Fire Chief Daryl Osby said.
At least 150 houses were destroyed in the county, and more than 200,000 people have been ordered to evacuate.
Flames also lashed Thousand Oaks, a city reeling from a mass shooting at a country bar that left 13 dead including the gunman on Wednesday.
“We’ve had a lot of tragedy in our community,” said Ventura County Supervisor Linda Parks, whose district includes Thousand Oaks. “We don’t want any more. We do not want any more lives lost.”
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