Pair of California wildfires destroy homes near Los Angeles

(Reuters) – A pair of wildfires have destroyed dozens of homes near Los Angeles and forced thousands of residents to evacuate, fire officials and local media reported on Friday, days after power cuts were ordered across the state to prevent fires.

In the San Fernando Valley north of Los Angeles, the so-called Saddleridge fire had spread to more than 4,000 acres by early Friday morning and was completely uncontained, the Los Angeles Fire Department said. More than 12,500 homes and some 100,000 residents were under mandatory evacuation orders on Friday morning, local TV station ABC 7 reported.

“Once daylight comes, a more accurate assessment can be performed,” the Los Angeles Fire Department said in a pre-dawn Twitter message. “A number of homes have been destroyed by fire but the estimated number is not available at this time.”

Authorities were also fighting overnight to contain the Sandalwood Fire in Riverside County, which had scorched about 500 acres near Calimesa, about 70 miles east of downtown Los Angeles by early Friday. It was only 10 percent contained as of early Friday, Riverside County Fire Department (RCFD) officials said.

There were no immediate reports of deaths or injuries from the latest blazes, among about 275 wildfires that have broken out across California as hot, gusty winds signaled the start of its peak fire season, state officials said.

It comes a year after the deadliest and most destructive ever seasons recorded in California, with about 100 residents and firefighters killed in 2018. More than 8,500 wildfires erupted last year, scorching more than 1.8 million acres and causing billions of dollars of damage.

In the San Fernando Valley, heavy winds fanned the fast-moving Saddleridge Fire, which hopped major roads as it raced west toward Ventura County and the Aliso Canyon natural gas facility in Porter Ranch, the site of an enormous gas leak in 2015.

The blaze was threatening homes in Sylmar and Porter Ranch, two neighborhoods on the northwest outskirts of Los Angeles, where authorities called in bulldozers, helicopters and other heavy equipment to battle the blaze.

It had set several homes and power lines ablaze and prompted the California Highway Patrol to shut down portions of several highways.

The Sandlewood blaze, named after a local landmark, erupted on Thursday afternoon when a garbage truck dumped burning trash that spread onto vegetation, the RCFD and California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire, said in a statement.

POWER CUTS

Firefighters have been able to quickly contain most of the other blazes that erupted across California.

The risk to life and property prompted Pacific Gas and Electric Co cut power to about 730,000 customers, a move that California Governor Gavin Newsom blamed on years of mismanagement by the utility.

By late Thursday, PG&E announced it had restored power to more than half of those affected, and about 312,000 remained without electricity.

PG&E filed for bankruptcy in January 2019, citing potential civil liabilities in excess of $30 billion from major wildfires linked to its transmission wires and other equipment.

As winds moved south, a similar cutoff was under way by Southern California Edison, which warned more than 173,000 customers that they could lose power.

Much of northern California, from San Francisco to the Oregon border, remains under a state “red flag” fire alert.

The National Weather Service said the hot gusty winds that usually hit northern California in October, sometimes called the “Diablo Winds,” would persist through Friday.

(Reporting by Gabriella Borter, Rich McKay, Dan Whitcomb; Additional reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Writing by Frank McGurty; Editing by Pravin Char and Nick Zieminski)

Californians jolted by strong aftershock following strongest quake in 25 years

A house is seen damaged from a powerful earthquake that struck Southern California, near the epicenter, northeast the city of Ridgecrest, California, U.S., July 4, 2019. REUTERS/David McNew

By David McNew

RIDGECREST, Calif. (Reuters) – A strong aftershock shook Southern California early on Friday as residents were still assessing the damage from the strongest earthquake in the region in 25 years on July 4, which was felt by more than 20 million people.

The 5.4 magnitude aftershock, the biggest so far, struck the same desert region as Thursday’s earthquake. Its epicenter was about 11 miles (18 km) west of Searles Valley at 4:07 a.m., the U.S. Geological Survey said.

The aftershock was felt in Los Angeles, about 150 miles (240 km) to the south, and the surrounding area, with many residents posting on Twitter that they were awakened by it.

There had already been more than 80 smaller aftershocks since Thursday’s 6.4 magnitude quake near the city of Ridgecrest, which was felt from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, USGS seismologist Lucy Jones said.

“We should be expecting lots of aftershocks and some of them will be bigger than the 3s we’ve been having so far,” Jones told reporters on Thursday. “I think the chance of having a magnitude 5 … is probably greater than 50-50.”

Only a few injuries were reported in Thursday’s quake, but two houses caught fire from broken gas pipes, officials said.

Water gushed from zigzagged cracks in the pavement from busted water lines. Deep fissures snaked across the Mojave Desert, with passersby stopping to take selfies while standing in the rendered earth.

The quake sent 30 residents of the desert community of 28,000 to emergency shelters, knocked some houses off their foundations and left many homeowners wondering if their insurance would cover the damage, Ridgecrest Mayor Peggy Breeden said.

“The most important thing is that we have not had any loss of life or any major personal damage to people,” Breeden told CNN on Friday.

Breeden said officials were still assessing the extent of the damage, but added that emergency state and federal aid would enable the city’s overwhelmed agencies to start the cleanup without worrying about their budgets.

The quake hit the edge of Death Valley National Park about 113 miles northeast of Los Angeles at about 10:30 a.m. on Thursday. It was very shallow, only 6.7 miles (10.7 km) deep, amplifying its effect, and was felt in an area inhabited by 20 million people, the European quake agency EMSC said.

The Ridgecrest Regional Hospital, where 15 patients were evacuated earlier, appeared intact apart from some new cracks in the walls.

The quake is the largest in Southern California since the 1994 magnitude 6.6 Northridge earthquake, USGS geophysicist Paul Caruso said. That quake, which was centered in a heavily populated area of Los Angeles, killed 57 people and caused billions of dollars of damage.

(Reporting by David McNew; additional reporting by Bill Tarrant in Los Angeles, Sandra Maler in Washington, Lisa Richwine in Los Angeles, Gabriella Borter and Daniel Trotta and Peter Szekely in New York, Lizbeth Diaz in Mexico City and Rich McKay in Atlanta; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Grant McCool)

NRA sues Los Angeles over law requiring that contractors reveal ties to gun group

An attendee speaks to representatives of the National Rifle Association (NRA) at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) annual meeting at National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland

(Reuters) – The National Rifle Association sued Los Angeles on Wednesday over a new law requiring that contractors seeking to do business in the second most-populous U.S. city must disclose their ties to the gun rights group.

The NRA said the law violates its First Amendment free speech and association rights and its equal protection rights under the U.S. Constitution, according to its complaint filed in Los Angeles federal court.

Mayor Eric Garcetti was also named as a defendant.

The Los Angeles City Attorney’s office and Garcetti’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The lawsuit challenges an ordinance passed on Feb. 12 by the Los Angeles City Council that requires companies that want city contracts to disclose NRA contracts or sponsorships.

That ordinance was passed in the wake of a series of recent mass shootings in the United States.

The NRA said Los Angeles adopted the ordinance “intending to silence NRA’s voice, as well as the voices of all those who dare oppose the city’s broad gun-control agenda.”

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

Midwest floods hammer U.S. ethanol industry, push some gasoline prices toward five-year high

FILE PHOTO: A motel, restaurant and travel stop are shown surrounded by flood waters in this aerial photo in Percival, Iowa, U.S., March 29, 2019. REUTERS/Tom Polansek/File Photo

By Jarrett Renshaw and Stephanie Kelly

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The March floods that punished the U.S. Midwest have roiled the ethanol industry, hammering prices and trapping barrels in the country’s interior while the U.S. coasts suffer from shortages of the biofuel.

The historic March floods have dealt a series of blows to large swaths of an ethanol industry that was already struggling with high inventories and sluggish domestic demand growth. And the ethanol shortages are one factor pushing gasoline prices in Los Angeles and Southern California to the highest in the nation and they could top $4 a gallon for the first time since 2014, according to tracking firm GasBuddy.

Benchmark price for ethanol used in most supply contracts initially jumped on news of the floods but has been hobbled by rising waters around the Chicago hub that have halted barges and sales. That stands in contrast to prices on the coasts, which rose dramatically – drawing in heavy imports from Brazil, the main U.S. ethanol competitor.

The floods inflicted billions of dollars in damage to crops and homes in the U.S. Midwest, and knocked out roughly 13 percent of ethanol capacity.

U.S. ethanol is made from corn and required by the government to be blended into the nation’s fuel supply to reduce emissions.

While some ethanol plants were flooded, the primary effect of the rising waters was to shut rail lines that serve as the main arteries for corn and ethanol deliveries.

Ethanol prices on the coasts spiked due to shortages, but Midwest producers have been unable to take advantage because of washed-out rail lines, market sources told Reuters.

“Unfortunately for anyone who was impacted by logistics issues it was a double whammy. You couldn’t capture the rally,” said one trader.

At Chicago’s Argo terminal, the nation’s main ethanol pricing hub, the cash price for ethanol fell for an eighth straight session last week to $1.29 a gallon, the longest downward skid since April of last year, according to Oil Price Information Service, which does daily assessments.

Initially, fears of widespread plant outages boosted that benchmark, but plants proved more resilient than expected, continuing to produce despite logistical challenges.

U.S. ethanol inventories were at 24 million barrels for the week ended March 29, just off a record hit a week earlier, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration data.

Chicago’s price acts as the benchmark for millions of barrels bought and sold via longer-term supply contracts each day. While that price faltered, ethanol prices at the coast have surged, helping plants owned by Pacific Ethanol Inc and White Energy in California and Texas to take advantage of higher prices.

Ethanol delivered into Los Angeles typically trades at 20 cents a gallon higher than Chicago, but that premium rose to as high as 50 cents a gallon, traders said. The price in New York Harbor was at roughly double normal levels, traders said.

The tight ethanol supplies, along with refinery outages, boosted retail gasoline prices and led to some gas station shutdowns in the West as blenders there lacked the ethanol needed to blend with gasoline to make fuel that meets government regulations.

Gas prices in Arizona averaged $2.88 per gallon on Sunday, 17 percent higher than last month, according to the American Automobile Association. Prices were even steeper in California at $3.78 a gallon, well above the national average of $2.74 a gallon.

“Ultimately, Los Angeles could get close to seeing that average at $4 a gallon,” Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis at tracking firm GasBuddy, said, adding that much of that increase will come because of refinery outages in the state.

At least one county in California has already surpassed $4 a gallon. The highest recorded average price for the state was $4.67 a gallon, in October 2012, according to AAA.

The high coastal prices attracted barrels from the biggest U.S. competitor: Brazil. Overall ethanol imports to the United States totaled 558,279 barrels in March, the most seasonally since 2013, according to Refinitiv Eikon ship tracking data. Most of the imports during the month came from Brazil, according to the tracking data.

(Reporting by Jarrett Renshaw and Stephanie Kelly; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

Striking Los Angeles teachers set for mass rally as talks resume

FILE PHOTO: Los Angeles teachers carry signs as they picket in the rain in Los Angeles, California, U.S. January 16, 2018. REUTERS/Dan Whitcomb

By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Los Angeles teachers union officials on Friday called for a mass rally to show support before their second round of contact talks to settle a week-long strike that has disrupted classes for some 500,000 students in the second largest U.S. school system.

At the request of Mayor Eric Garcetti, negotiators for the United Teachers Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Unified School District returned to the bargaining table on Thursday for the first time since talks broke off a week ago.

Garcetti, who is mediating talks even though he has no direct authority over the school district, said on Twitter that the two sides had “productive” negotiations that went past midnight and were set to resume at 11 a.m. PST (1900 GMT).

Both sides agreed to a news blackout during the mediated talks. Negotiations, which had gone on for 21 months before some 30,000 teachers walked off the job on Monday, have been centered largely on union demands for smaller classes, more support staff and higher pay.

The labor strife in Los Angeles follows a wave of teacher strikes last year across the United States over salaries and school funding, including walkouts in West Virginia, Oklahoma and Arizona. While those strikes represented conflicts between teachers unions and Republican-controlled state governments, the Los Angeles strike pits educators against Democratic leaders.

At an early-morning rally at City Hall, union leaders urged members and supporters to turn out en masse for a larger assembly later Friday at nearby Grand Park.

“We are willing to go as long as it takes and work as hard as we need to, to get a fair contract,” union Secretary Arlene Inouye told supporters, adding that she expected the talks to last through the three-day holiday weekend.

School Superintendent Austin Beutner has said the demands, if fully met, would be too great a budget strain. Union President Alex Caputo-Pearl has insisted sufficient funding is available, given the right priorities.

The district said in a statement late Thursday the strike had already cost about $100 million and that “our students are missing out on the opportunity to learn.”

Although the strike has disrupted classes, support for teachers was running high among parents, several major possible Democratic presidential contenders and the public at large, as reflected in a recent survey of Los Angeles residents.

District officials have kept all 1,200 schools open on a limited basis with a skeleton staff, but attendance was running well below normal.

(Reporting by Steve Gorman; Additional reporting by Peter Szekely in New York; Editing by Scott Malone and Jeffrey Benkoe)

Los Angeles bishop resigns over sex abuse as crisis spreads

FILE PHOTO: Protesters hold signs outside the venue of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) general assembly in Baltimore, Maryland, U.S., November 12, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis accepted the resignation of a bishop in Los Angeles accused of sexually abusing a minor, the Vatican said on Wednesday, in the latest case of clergy misconduct to shake the U.S. Catholic Church.

A brief Vatican statement said Alexander Salazar, 69, an assistant bishop in Los Angeles, was stepping down. It also distributed a letter on the Salazar case written by the current Archbishop of Los Angeles, Jose Gomez.

The U.S. Catholic Church is still reeling from a U.S. grand jury report that found that 301 priests in the state of Pennsylvania had sexually abused minors over a 70-year period.

There will be a major meeting at the Vatican in February on the global sex abuse crisis.

Gomez’s letter to the faithful said that in 2005, a year after Salazar became bishop, the archdiocese had become aware of an accusation that Salazar had engaged in “misconduct with a minor” when he was a priest in a parish in the 1990s.

Police investigated but the Los Angeles district attorney did not prosecute, Gomez’s letter said, adding that Salazar, a native of Costa Rica, “has consistently denied any wrongdoing”.

The archdiocese’s independent Clergy Misconduct Review Board found the allegation “credible” and informed the Vatican.

The archbishop’s letter did not explain why the process between the initial accusation and Wednesday’s resignation took 13 years.

A statement from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles said Salazar’s name resurfaced after Gomez became archbishop in 2011, and ordered a review of past allegations of abuse.

The archdiocese’s statement disclosed that Gomez’s predecessor, Cardinal Roger Mahoney, sent the case to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), which investigates abuse cases.

The CDF “permitted Bishop Salazar to remain in ministry subject to certain precautionary conditions, which he has respected”. The statement did not elaborate on what the conditions were or why he was allowed to return to ministry.

Benedict XVI was pope between 2005 and his resignation in 2013.

Pope Francis has summoned the heads of some 110 national Catholic bishops’ conferences and dozens of experts and leaders of religious orders to the Vatican on Feb. 21-24 for an extraordinary gathering dedicated to the sexual abuse crisis.

Victims of clergy sexual abuse are hoping that the meeting will finally come up with a clear policy to make bishops themselves accountable for the mishandling of abuse cases.

(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

Deadly California wildfire grows as teams sift through ashes for remains

A volunteer search and rescue crew from Calaveras County comb through a home destroyed by the Camp Fire in Paradise, California, U.S., November 13, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester

By Noel Randewich and Sharon Bernstein

PARADISE, Calif. (Reuters) – Convoys of fire engines rumbled through the smoldering northern California town of Paradise on Tuesday on their way to combat still-active sections of the state’s deadliest and most destructive wildfire in history, which grew by 8,000 acres.

Teams of workers wielding chainsaws cleared downed power lines and other obstacles from the streets, while forensics teams mobilized to resume their search for human remains in the charred wreckage of the Butte County town of 27,000, which was almost completely consumed by fire last Thursday, just hours after the blaze erupted.

FILE PHOTO: Ken's Automotive Service repair shop lies in ruins after wildfires devastated the area in Paradise, California, U.S., November 12, 2018. REUTERS/Sharon Bernstein/File Photo

FILE PHOTO: Ken’s Automotive Service repair shop lies in ruins after wildfires devastated the area in Paradise, California, U.S., November 12, 2018. REUTERS/Sharon Bernstein/File Photo

The “Camp Fire” continued to rage in Butte County, about 175 miles (280 km) north of San Francisco, and expanded to 125,000 acres (50,500 hectares), more than four times the area of the city, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) said. It was 30 percent contained.

The death toll stood at 42 people, the most on record from a California wildfire. More than 7,600 homes and other structures burned down, also an all-time high.

Some 228 people are still unaccounted for and listed as missing. Officials asked relatives and friends to keep checking with evacuation shelters and call centers in the hope many of them could be located.

On a residential street in Paradise lined with burned down houses, a team of 10 rescue and forensic workers wearing white suits and helmets used a dog to search for victims.

“Look for skulls, the big bones,” one forensics worker said to others as they used metal poles and their hands to sift through the remains of a house.

Another found a firearm and marked it for later removal.

Across the street, two rescue workers in red led a dog around a burnt-out car and through the foundation of a house.

One hundred fifty search-and-recovery personnel were due to arrive in the area on Tuesday, bolstering 13 coroner-led recovery teams in the fire zone, said Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea.

The sheriff has requested three portable morgue teams from the U.S. military, a “disaster mortuary” crew, cadaver dog units to locate human remains and three groups of forensic anthropologists.

 

A firefighter extinguishes a hot spot in a neighbourhood destroyed by the Camp Fire in Paradise, California, U.S., November 13, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester

A firefighter extinguishes a hot spot in a neighborhood destroyed by the Camp Fire in Paradise, California, U.S., November 13, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester

Some 52,000 people remained under evacuation orders and 8,700 firefighters from 17 states have been battling the wildfires.

In Southern California, two people died in the separate “Woolsey Fire,” which has destroyed 435 structures and displaced about 200,000 people in the mountains and foothills near Southern California’s Malibu coast, west of Los Angeles.

The Woolsey Fire was 35 percent contained, up from 30 percent a day earlier, Cal Fire said.

The fires in Los Angeles and Ventura counties burned 96,000 acres (39,000 hectares), roughly the size of Denver and the largest in the area’s 100-year recorded history, officials said, even though air tankers have dropped nearly 1 million gallons (37,000 hectoliters) of fire retardant and 22 helicopters have dropped 1.5 million gallons of water on the fire.

“It is truly heartbreaking,” Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell told a news conference. “Hundreds (of homes) still sit in ruins. We fully understand that each house is a home.”

Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby said he was hopeful that forecast rainfall next week would help, though it might also provoke landslides.

Four communities were reopened to previously evacuated residents, a sign that firefighters were getting the upper hand, Osby said.

“We’re doing all that we can to allow people to go back home when it’s safe,” Osby said. “I can’t even relate to being evacuated this long. But we will let you go back home when it’s safe.”

President Donald Trump on Monday night declared a major disaster exists from the fires, making federal funds available to people and local government agencies in Butte, Los Angeles, and Ventura counties.

The pledge came two days after Trump blamed the brush fires on forest mismanagement, tweeting “Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!”

He struck a more sympathetic tone while speaking from the White House on Tuesday.

“We mourn the lives of those lost and we pray for the victims,” Trump said while thanking first responders. “We will do everything in our power to support and protect our fellow citizens in harm’s way.”

For a graphic on Deadly California fires, see – https://tmsnrt.rs/2Plpuui

(Reporting by Noel Randewich and Sharon Bernstein; Writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Lisa Shumaker)

Five dead in California wildfire as second blaze forces Malibu evacuation

Firefighters battle flames overnight during a wildfire that burned dozens of homes in Thousand Oaks, California, U.S. November 9, 2018. REUTERS/Eric Thayer

By Stephen Lam

PARADISE, Calif. (Reuters) – A rapidly moving wildfire in Northern California killed five people when flames engulfed their vehicles as they attempted to flee the mountain town of Paradise in one of three infernos raging across the state, authorities said on Friday.

Nearly 500 miles (800 km) to the south, a blaze forced the evacuation of the upscale oceanside city of Malibu, home to many celebrities, and threatened the beleaguered town of Thousand Oaks, where a gunman killed 12 people this week in a shooting rampage in a bar and dance hall.

Since it broke out on Thursday, the so-called Camp Fire has more than tripled in size to 70,000 acres (2,838 hectares) after engulfing Paradise, a town of nearly 30,000 people, and was only 5-percent contained by Friday.

“The town is devastated, everything is destroyed,” said California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) spokesman Scott Mclean, referring to Paradise, which has a population of 26,000 including many retirees.

In addition to the five people found dead in their vehicles, many were forced to abandon their cars and run for their lives down the sole road through the mountain town. About 2,000 structures were destroyed in the area, officials said.

The death toll is expected to climb above five, Mclean said, because flames have blocked search and rescue crews from looking for victims in destroyed homes.

“The only reason they found the five is because they were still on the road,” Mclean said.

HOT WINDS

The fires in California have been driven by hot winds from the east reaching speeds of up to 40 miles per hour (64 kph), forcing firefighters to scramble to keep up with the fast-moving flames.

In Southern California, the 14,000-acre (5,666-hectare) Woolsey Fire led authorities on Friday morning to expand mandatory evacuation orders to the entire city of Malibu.

Flames completely engulfed large homes in at least one affluent neighborhood.

“Fire is now burning out of control and heading into populated areas of Malibu,” the city said in a statement online. “All residents must evacuate immediately.”

In all, the Woolsey Fire led authorities to issue evacuation orders for 75,000 homes in Los Angeles and Ventura counties.

It was not immediately clear how many homes had been destroyed.

Video shot from a news helicopter showed cars at a standstill on the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, about 30 miles (48 km) west of downtown Los Angeles. An unspecified number of homes were destroyed there, according to local media.

MOVIE SET TOWN ABLAZE

The Woolsey Fire broke out on Thursday and quickly jumped the 101 Freeway. On Friday, it climbed across the Santa Monica Mountains toward Malibu.

It also threatened parts of nearby Thousand Oaks in Ventura County northwest of Los Angeles, the site of the shooting massacre earlier this week, stunning a community with a reputation for safety.

Linda Parks, a Ventura County supervisor, whose district covers Thousand Oaks, lamented the timing of the wildfire. “We are still reeling, but we are also very resilient,” she said.

On its path of destruction, the fire destroyed a Western-themed movie and television set in Agoura, north of Malibu, a unit of the National Park Service said on Twitter.

Western Town was created in the 1950s for television shows such as “The Cisco Kid,” and more recently was used for television shows such as “Westworld” and “Weeds,” and was a draw for visitors.

California Acting Governor Gavin Newsom on Friday declared a state of emergency for areas affected by the Woolsey and Hill fires in Ventura and Los Angeles counties.

In Los Angeles, another fire in Griffith Park forced the Los Angeles Zoo to evacuate a number of show birds and some small primates on Friday as flames came within less than 2 miles (3 km) of the facility, zoo officials said in a statement.

“Animals and employees are safe,” the statement said.

(Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis; Additional reporting by Bernie Woodall and Brendan O’Brien; Editing by Bill Tarrant and Sandra Maler)

Three fast-moving California blazes cause thousands to flee

Wind-driven ambers are seen during the Camp Fire in Paradise, California, U.S. November 8, 2018. REUTERS/Stephen Lam

By Stephen Lam

PARADISE, Calif. (Reuters) – Three fast-moving wildfires burned in California on Friday morning, including one that spurred the evacuation of 75,000 homes near a city that was still reeling from a mass shooting.

An inmate firefighter crew work to create a defensible space while battling the Camp Fire in Paradise, California, U.S. November 8, 2018. REUTERS/Stephen Lam

An inmate firefighter crew work to create a defensible space while battling the Camp Fire in Paradise, California, U.S. November 8, 2018. REUTERS/Stephen Lam

Voluntary evacuations of 75,000 homes were called for because of the Woolsey Fire that included parts of Thousand Oaks in Ventura County northwest of Los Angeles, the site of a mass shooting incident this week in which 12 people were killed.

The Woolsey blaze was also burning in parts of Los Angeles County.

Also burning in Ventura County was the Hill Fire, which had torched 10,000 acres (4047 hectares) by Thursday night, fire officials said.

In Northern California, the Camp Fire advanced rapidly to the outskirts of the city of Chico early on Friday, forcing thousands to flee after it left the nearby town of Paradise in ruins, California fire officials said.

Evacuation notices were set for homes on the east side of Chico, a city of about 93,000 people situated about 90 miles (145 km) north of Sacramento.

The Chico Fire Department said: “Firefighters continue to actively engage the fire in order to protect life and property.”

Firefighters battle to save structures while battling the Camp Fire in Paradise, California, U.S. November 8, 2018. REUTERS/Stephen Lam

Firefighters battle to save structures while battling the Camp Fire in Paradise, California, U.S. November 8, 2018. REUTERS/Stephen Lam

Flames from the unchecked, 20,000-acre (8,100-hectare) Camp Fire were being driven westward by 35-mile-per hour (56 km-per-hour) winds, fire officials said.

The blaze earlier ripped through Paradise, about 20 miles east of Chico.

“The town is devastated, everything is destroyed. There’s nothing much left standing,” said California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) spokesman Scott Maclean.

“This fire moved so fast and grew so fast a lot of people got caught by it.”

Maclean said an as-yet unspecified number of civilians and firefighters had been injured, and it could be days before authorities would know whether anyone had died.

Paradise, located on a ridge, has limited escape routes. Traffic accidents turned roads into gridlock and residents abandoned vehicles and ran from the flames, carrying children and pets, officials said. One woman who was stuck in traffic went into labor, the Enterprise-Record newspaper reported.

A Cal Fire firefighter hoses a smoldering home while battling the Camp Fire in Paradise, California, U.S. November 8, 2018. REUTERS/Stephen Lam

A Cal Fire firefighter hoses a smoldering home while battling the Camp Fire in Paradise, California, U.S. November 8, 2018. REUTERS/Stephen Lam

“It’s very chaotic,” said Officer Ryan Lambert of the California Highway Patrol.

Rescuers used a bulldozer to push abandoned cars out the way to reach Feather River Hospital and evacuate patients as flames engulfed the building, Butte County Supervisor Doug Teeter told reporters.

The hospital was totally destroyed, Mike Mangas, a spokesman for operator Dignity Health, told Action News Now.

The fire, which began early on Thursday, was the fiercest of several wind-driven blazes across California, during what has been one of the worst years for wildfires in the state.

In Ventura County, “Strong Santa Ana winds (are) expected to continue through this morning,” the National Weather Service in Los Angeles said on Twitter on Friday. That helped double the size of the Woolsey Fire to 8,000 acres (3238 hectares), fire officials said.

Wind gusts of 50 to 70 mph (80 to 113 kph) were expected in the mountains of Ventura County and up to 50 mph in the valleys and coastal areas of the county, the NWS said.

Travel was limited on U.S. Highway 101 in Ventura County, state highway patrol troopers said.

A former U.S. Marine combat veteran opened fire in a bar packed with college students in Thousand Oaks on Wednesday, killing 12 people in an incident that stunned a bucolic community with a reputation for safety.

(Additional reporting by Bernie Woodall and Brendan O’Brien; editing by John Stonestreet and Bernadette Baum)

Gunman kills 12 including deputy in crowded California bar

Police guard the site of a mass shooting at a bar in Thousand Oaks, California, U.S. November 8, 2018. REUTERS/Ringo Chiu

(Reuters) – A gunman opened fire on a crowd of mostly college students and young adults dancing at a crowded country and western bar in a suburb of Los Angeles late on Wednesday night, killing 12 people including a sheriff’s deputy, police said.

Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean named the suspect as Ian Long, aged 28. He told a news conference Long had likely shot himself and that he was a veteran who had served in the U.S. Marine Corps.

He said he appeared to have shot at random inside the club, using only a Glock .45-caliber handgun. There was no known motive, he said.

An unknown number of people were wounded in the shooting at the Borderline Bar and Grill, a popular venue with college students and young adults in the suburb of Thousand Oaks. Wednesday was dubbed “College Country Night”.

It was the third mass shooting in the United States in under two weeks, six days after the death of two women at a yoga class in Tallahassee, Florida and 12 days after a gunman killed 11 worshippers at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, shouting “All Jews must die”.

“It’s a horrific scene in there,” Dean said earlier. “There is blood everywhere and the suspect is part of that.”

(Reporting by Bernie Woodall in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., Rich McKay in Atlanta and Doina Chiacu in Washington; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Alison Williams)