USA – Many residents of one Northern California town almost completely incinerated in the state’s deadliest wildfire ever were not ordered out until nearly an hour after the flames approached the area, a delay that may have cost dozens of people their lives, the Los Angeles Times reports. The first several minutes after the Camp Fire started as a small brush fire in a nearly unreachable area on Nov. 8 were a race against the wind, which quickly spread the flames into nearby communities, Capt. Matt McKenzie of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection told the Times. The speed with which the inferno spread reportedly caught firefighters off guard and created chaos that led to a delayed evacuation.
Fire crews reportedly ordered an evacuation for the eastern part of the town of Paradise at 7:46 a.m., more than an hour after the blaze had erupted. But the rest of the town wasn’t told to evacuate until the fire had already reached the area, leaving no time to escape, according to the Times. Even then, by the time many residents managed to flee, the evacuation routes were already on fire. As of Saturday, at least 76 people have been confirmed dead as a result of the blaze, with many of the fatalities in Paradise. The death toll is expected to rise as rescuers continue to comb through the charred wreckage.
Authorities told the Times that an emergency alert system was in place to warn the town’s residents of such an impending disaster, but only about 30 percent of people had signed up for it.