Devastating wildfires on both ends of California pushed into new territory Saturday, as fatigued firefighters worked to evacuate residents in harm’s way and contain blazes that already have claimed at least 25 lives, destroyed thousands of homes and other structures and scorched hundreds of square miles.
The three fires began Thursday — the largest in Northern California. In Southern California, two fires were burning in the drought-stricken canyons and hills north and west of downtown Los Angeles.
Firefighters have saved thousands of homes despite working in “extreme, tough fire conditions that they said they have never seen in their life,” Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby said.
Those vicious conditions on Friday night gave way to calm Saturday, with winds reduced to breezes. No new growth was reported on the larger of the two fires, which stands at 109 square miles (282 square kilometers), and firefighters now have the blaze 5 percent contained.
Hundreds of thousands across the region remain under evacuation orders, and could stay that way for days as winds pick up again.
Fire burned in famously ritzy coastal spots like Malibu , where Lady Gaga, Kim Kardashian West, Guillermo del Toro and Martin Sheen were among those forced out of their homes amid a citywide evacuation order.
The few residents of the burned-out Northern California city of Paradise who were able to inspect their property on Saturday saw nothing but disappointment.
Nearly the entire city of 27,000 residents lay in ruins and most were still barred from returning to the still hazardous town where small fires continued to flare.
The fire became California’s third deadliest since record-keeping began, with the death toll surpassing that from a blaze last year that ravaged the city of Santa Rosa.
The flames burned down more than 6,700 buildings, almost all of them homes, making it California’s most destructive wildfire since record-keeping began.
Visual artist and Digital Storyteller at The Associated Press