“The town is gone,” said one Paradise resident who evacuated to nearby Chico.
LOS ANGELES — Linda Fisher looked out her window Thursday morning and saw the pines beyond her backyard in Paradise, California, ablaze.
“That whole canyon was on fire,” the certified nursing assistant, 33, said. “When I saw the flames I called 911 and they said we’re not taking you out — you need to get out.”
For the next 15 minutes, she ran around her two-story condominium in mountainous Paradise, less than 100 miles north of Sacramento, and scooped up clothing for her boys, ages 4 and 8, before driving them into a traffic jam of evacuees punctuated by spot fires in every direction.
Fisher and her sons fled and are staying with loved ones in the Bay Area while she figures out her next move. They were lucky. At least nine people have perished so far in the 90,000-acre Camp Fire that consumed most of the residences in Paradise.
“In the residential areas, 80 to 90 percent of the people lost their homes,” Mayor Jody Jones said.
Fisher said her landlord reported that the home she was renting is gone. The devastation in the 26,682-population town is so complete that folks like her are seriously wondering if they’ll ever go back.
“We don’t have anywhere to go,” she said.
Brian Rice, chairman of the California Fire Foundation, toured the aftermath Friday and checked in on the families of local firefighters who were still at war in the verdant hills.
The Camp Fire, only 20 percent contained as of Saturday morning, is now the most destructive fire in state history, said Deputy Chief Scott McLean of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
Rice said 50 firefighters live within the blueprint of the fire. So far he’s verified that at least 18 have lost homes. He said the California Professional Firefighters union, of which he’s president, provides $3,500 checks on the spot to those who have lost residences.
Some local evacuees who come across firefighters are being handed $100 gift cards from the California Fire Foundation’s SAVE (Supplying Aid to Victims of Emergency) program, too, he said.
It’s little consolation. Rice said the town really was decimated, with rebuilding now possibly up in the air.