Deadly California blaze causes “utter panic” as people try to escape

PARADISE, Calif. — Two wildfires have burned tens of thousands of acres since Thursday, and now mass evacuations are underway outside Los Angeles. That includes all of Malibu as the flames race toward the sea.

As the fast-moving fire ravaged Northern California, forcing an entire city of 27,000 to evacuate, highways were jammed with cars as people desperately tried to escape. One man battled burning ash as he tried to find a way out.

He’s safe now, but at least five people were killed in vehicles — their bodies burned so badly they could not be immediately identified. Some people abandoned their cars and ran for their lives.

Five miles north of Paradise, Tisha Aroyo and her grandfather stayed behind. He said he thought he could save her house, but they would only watch helplessly as their home burned.

JT Ford and his wife Stacey went to a nearby pasture, where they watched their home go up in flames.

“The fire roared through so quick it was only an hour of utter panic and fear because then everything burned out,” Ford said.

Flames have moved so quickly there’s not a lot firefighters can do.

“That fire from the second it started was off to the races,” said Ken Pimlott, director of Cal Fire. “It’s all hands on deck to rescue people and get people out of harm’s way.”

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