California wildfire destroys 500 structures, nearly levels community

July 28, 2018 1:30 PM

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REDDING, CALIF.—In the small northern California community of Keswick, only a handful of homes remain.

The air is thick with the smell of smoke and chemicals. The rubble of people’s lives still smouldered a day after the so-called Carr Fire moved through Shasta County like a freight train.

The flames so thoroughly ate up homes that it’s difficult to tell how many once stood above the pile of ash and smoking rubble that remains.

Jason Campbell, a firefighter, was six hours away battling a wildfire burning near Yosemite Valley when the Carr Fire moved in on his home and family.

Shyla Campbell, 32, said it was nearly 2 a.m. Thursday when she got an official alert to evacuate.

“It’s huge flames, it’s coming up the hill, and everyone’s out and we’re watching it, then it goes down, and everyone’s like, ‘Oh it’s going out,’” she said. “And I’m like, ‘No, it’s going down the mountain and it’s going to come back up the next ridge.’”

The family spent the night at a hotel. When Jason Campbell returned from the blaze he was fighting on Friday, he found his own home had gone up in flames, along with an RV and a boat.

The Campbells’ home of five years is among at least 500 structures that officials say were destroyed by the fire, which also swept through the historic Gold Rush town of Shasta and hit homes in Redding, a city of 92,000 about 160 kilometres south of the Oregon border.

“It’s tough,” Shyla Campbell said Friday from the city of Shasta Lake. “I just have to figure out where we’re going to stay. We’re just trying to stay away from the fire.”

So are about 37,000 people who remain under evacuation orders Friday. Nearly 5,000 homes in the area were being threatened by the 194-square-kilometre blaze, which is just 5 per cent contained.

Thousands of people scrambled to escape before the walls of flames descended from forested hills onto their neighbourhoods Thursday.


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