The Camp Fire has already claimed 5 lives in one Northern California town, and authorities expect that total to rise as firefighters are only just finding their way into the town of Paradise, a town in Butte County that was completely destroyed by the shockingly aggressive wildfire.
Spurred on by strong winds, dry air and drought-starved brush, the Camp Fire exploded into view at around 6:30 am Thursday morning and remained completely uncontained as of Friday afternoon. California’s acting Gov. Gavin Newsom (who filled in for outgoing governor Jerry Brown on Thursday while Brown was out of state) declared a state of emergency. Authorities believe that more than 1,000 homes have already been destroyed.
Some of the videos and photos taken from inside Paradise have been nothing short of surreal, as residents had only hours – sometimes minutes – to flee following a mandatory evacuation order issued as the flames climbed over the Sierra foothills.
In one particularly harrowing video shared to Facebook by Brynn Parrott Chatfield, viewers are treated to a first-person view of Chatfield driving through what looks like a tunnel of fire. This isn’t an exaggeration: The effect is it looks as if Chatfield were driving through the gates of Hell itself.
During the video, Chatfield can be heard saying a prayer and weeping. Though she made it through, Chatfield described the harrowing experience in her Facebook post. “I feel very vulnerable posting this but I feel I should. My hometown of Paradise is on fire. My family is evacuated and safe. Not all my friends are safe. It’s very surreal. Things always work out, but the unknown is a little scary.”
Others haven’t been so lucky.