Flame-ridden poles, car-bodies with melted glass, stray cat with soot-covered fur: ravaged by the most destructive fire ever seen in California, Paradise looks like a ghost town.
“Devastation, total devastation” sums up, scared, Mark Nees, a firefighter who arrived the day before from neighboring Oregon to help his Californian colleagues at work in this town located in Butte County, north of Sacramento, the capital from California.
“It’s really unbelievable, we have intervened on many fires over the years, but personally that’s what I’ve seen worse,” says AFP this team leader, who is preparing to rake an area affected by the fire to secure it.
In the city center as well as on the outskirts, many houses – mostly built of wood in California – there is nothing left but calcined debris, and sometimes a brick chimney rising to the sky.
Some buildings have been strangely spared, like a garage, almost intact, surrounded by a white plastic fence melted by the heat.
Red trucks and yellow suits, the firemen are, with the blue pickups of the workers of the electricity company, the only touches of color in these fumaroles and gray ashes: the 27,000 inhabitants of Paradise were evacuated in catastrophe Thursday, some scarcely escaping the flames.
Others did not have that chance.
On Saturday, Kory Honea, the Butte County Sheriff, announced that rescuers had discovered the bodies of 14 people killed in the fire, bringing the total number of deaths to 23. Nineteen were found in Paradise and four in the Concow area, still in Butte County, he said.