California wildfires: Three die as blazes continue raging

APTOPIX California Wildfires

Three people have died in a California wildfire which has forced thousands of people to flee their homes.

One of the victims was found in a car apparently attempting to flee the fires, California Highway Patrol Officer Ben Draper told reporters.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of homes and other buildings are believed to have been damaged or destroyed by the blaze northeast of San Francisco, fire officials said.

9 PHOTOS
Wildfires near San Francisco
See Gallery
Wildfires near San Francisco
The Golden Gate Bridge is barely visible through smoke from wildfires Wednesday morning, Sept. 9, 2020, in this view from Fort Baker near Sausalito, Calif. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
Smoke from California wildfires obscures the sky over Oracle Park as the Seattle Mariners take batting practice before their baseball game against the San Francisco Giants on Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020, in San Francisco. People from San Francisco to Seattle woke Wednesday to hazy clouds of smoke lingering in the air, darkening the sky to an eerie orange glow that kept street lights illuminated into midday, all thanks to dozens of wildfires throughout the West. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
The skyline in the distance behind Oracle Park is partially visible with smoke from wildfires late Wednesday afternoon Sept. 9, 2020, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
Under darkened skies from wildfire smoke, a jogger makes his way along McCovey Cove outside Oracle Park on Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020, in San Francisco. People from San Francisco to Seattle woke Wednesday to hazy clouds of smoke lingering in the air, darkening the sky to an eerie orange glow that kept street lights illuminated into midday, all thanks to dozens of wildfires throughout the West. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
The skyline in the distance behind Crissy Field is barely visible with smoke from wildfires late Wednesday morning, Sept. 9, 2020, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - SEPTEMBER 9: Jamie Johnson, of San Francisco, takes his lunch at Embarcadero as smoky skies from the northern California wildfires casts a reddish color in San Francisco, Calif., on Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. (Photo by Ray Chavez/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - SEPTEMBER 9: People walk and ride along Embarcadero as smoky skies from the northern California wildfires casts a reddish color during the morning in San Francisco, Calif., on Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. (Photo by Ray Chavez/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - SEPTEMBER 9: People take photos of the smoky skies from the northern California wildfires as it casts a reddish color during lunch time in San Francisco, Calif., on Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. (Photo by Ray Chavez/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - SEPTEMBER 9: Smoky skies from the northern California wildfires casts a reddish color in San Francisco, Calif., on Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. (Photo by Ray Chavez/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

The fire has also threatened Paradise, a town devastated just two years ago by the deadliest blaze in state history that prompted a traffic jam as panicked residents tried to escape.

Other wildfires charred huge swathes of the west of the US amid gusty, dry conditions, with Washington, Oregon and Idaho also impacted.

A blast of polar air helped slow wildfires in Colorado and Montana.

Since the middle of August, fires in California have killed 11 people, destroyed more than 3,600 structures, burned old growth redwoods, charred shrubland and forced evacuations in communities near the coast, in wine country and along the Sierra Nevada.

Thick smoke choked much of the state and cast an eerie orange hue across the sky on Wednesday as thousands of people in communities near Oroville were ordered to evacuate.

Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles, conservatively estimated the fire had burned about 400 square miles in 24 hours.

"The unbelievable rates of spread now being observed on these fires — it is historically unprecedented," he tweeted.

The US Forest Service, which had taken the unprecedented measure of closing eight national forests in Southern California earlier in the week, ordered all 18 of its forests in the state closed Wednesday for public safety.

In Paradise, where 85 people lost their lives and nearly 19,000 buildings were destroyed, the sky turned from black to cherry red and ash carried on strong winds rained down in a scene reminiscent of the fateful morning of November 8 2018, former Mayor Steve "Woody" Culleton said.

"It was extremely frightening and ugly," Mr Culleton said.

"Everybody has PTSD and what not, so it triggered everybody and caused terror and panic."

In Southern California, fires burned in Los Angeles, San Bernardino and San Diego counties.

People in foothill communities east of Los Angeles were warned to be ready to flee, but the region's notorious Santa Ana winds were weaker than predicted.

"We're encouraged that the wind activity appears to be dying down," Governor Gavin Newsom said. "The rest of the week looks a little more favorable."

California has set a record with nearly 2.5 million acres burned already this year, and historically the worst of the wildfire season does not begin until the autumn.

Read Full Story Click here to comment

FROM OUR PARTNERS