Raging wildfire reduces California town to ashes

A California wildfire raced across a northern county in the state on Thursday, reducing the town of Paradise to ashes and injuring residents and first responders, fire officials said.

The fire started at about 6:30 a.m. in Butte County, which is about 85 miles north of Sacramento, officials from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention said at a press conference Thursday.

Fueled by winds, the fire rapidly spread and by 2 p.m. it enveloped about 18,000 acres, officials said.

“Firefighters continue to be challenged with extreme fire and weather conditions including strong winds and with long range spotting,” Cal Fire wrote on their website Thursday.

The flames swept through Paradise, which has about 26,000 residents, by about 8 a.m. Thursday and left a path of destruction in their wake.

“The whole town’s on fire,” Scott Lotter, a town councilman, told the Sacramento Bee. “It’s pretty grim.”

Wendell Whitmore, a 62-year-old Paradise resident, told the newspaper: “The flames were up in the trees, all the houses were on fire. The fire was three feet from my car. The rubber around the windows was melting. That’s when I decided to get out.”

The Bee also reported that at least two firefighters and several residents were injured in the blaze, including an elderly woman with severe burns.

Evacuations were ordered for the Butte towns of Paradise, Magalia, Concow, Butte Creek Canyon and Butte Valley, fire officials said.

Officials issued a “red flag” warning for the area because winds had reached between 20 and 40 miles-per-hour. The warning will remain in effect in the area until Friday morning, officials said.

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