‘Terrifying’ tornados of flame burn California city; 2 dead
A wildfire that roared with little warning into a Northern California city claimed two lives as thousands of people scrambled to escape before the walls of flames descended from forested hills onto their neighborhoods, officials said Friday.
Residents who gathered their belongings in haste described a chaotic and congested getaway as the fire leaped across the wide Sacramento River and torched subdivisions in Redding, a city of 92,000 about 100 miles south of the Oregon border.
“I’ve never experienced something so terrifying in my life,” said Liz Williams, who loaded up two kids in her car and then found herself locked in bumper-to-bumper traffic with neighbors trying to retreat from Lake Redding Estates. She eventually jumped the curb onto the sidewalk and “booked it.”
“I didn’t know if the fire was just going to jump out behind a bush and grab me and suck me in,” Williams said. “I wanted out of here.”
The blaze leveled dozens of homes, leaving neighborhoods smoldering and 37,000 people under evacuation orders.
The flames moved so fast that firefighters working in oven-like temperatures and bone-dry conditions had to drop efforts to battle the blaze to help people escape.
The fire, which created at least two flaming tornados that toppled trees, shook trucks and shattered windows, took “down everything in its path,” said Scott McLean, a spokesman for Cal Fire, the state agency responsible for fighting wildfires.