PARADISE, Calif. — A fast-moving wildfire raging in Northern California has destroyed the entire town of Paradise, killing nine people and being described as a vision of “Hell.”
“Honestly, it looks like Armageddon,” Brian Rice, chairman of the California Fire Foundation, told NBC News. “There’s a part of me that wonders if this city will come back. It is that devastating.”
The entire town of nearly 27,000 was ordered to evacuate just a day after the now-widespread fire began in a wooded area in Butte County, and by Thursday night, an estimated 80 to 90 percent of Paradise was decimated. Outlets describe a frantic scene where cars were backed up urgently seeking to escape, and some abandoned their vehicles to flee on foot.
“Trees were glowing 50 yards away and it was probably moving like 10 yards every couple minutes,” resident Savannah Rauscher told the Sacramento Bee. “It was moving so quickly and there’s cars as far as I can see. I had no idea it could be that fast.”
Video footage posted to social media by Brynn Chatfield also shows fires raging on both sides of the road as she and her husband escaped with their lives. (View below.)
“Heavenly Father, please help us,” Chatfield prayed. “Please help us to be safe.”
Five people that sought to leave town in their vehicles didn’t make it. Another four were found outside of their homes.
Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea outlined during a press conference on Friday that hundreds of calls were received requesting welfare checks on those who were unreachable by phone.
“Last night we had about 600 calls from people requesting that we do welfare checks on individuals … friends and family that they could not make contact with,” KQED News.
“We have been working through that list. Late last night, we had whittled that list down to about 400. I know that we’ve continued to get those calls and we continue to work on them.”
Paradise Mayor Jody Jones told reporters that most of the commercial corridor is destroyed, as well as two of the three grocery stores in town. More than 6,000 homes are also stated to have been decimated by the flames.
“Pretty much, the community of Paradise is destroyed; it’s that kind of devastation,” fire captain Scott McLean mourned. “The wind that was predicted came and just wiped it out.”
Churches in area towns not affected by the blaze have opened their doors as evacuation centers, including Church of the Nazarene in Oroville and Neighborhood Church in Chico. The Red Cross is also working to help those in need.
The Camp Fire is being called the most destructive in California’s history, and over 200,000 residents are stated to be displaced by the inferno.