Some residents of California town leveled by fire allowed to go home

Don Thompson
The Associated Press

PARADISE, Calif. — Some residents of a Northern California town devastated by a deadly wildfire were allowed to return home Wednesday, nearly a month after the blaze swept through the parched Sierra Nevada foothills, authorities said.

Evacuation orders were being lifted for all neighborhoods in the eastern side of the town of Paradise, where the fire that started Nov. 8 destroyed about 14,000 homes and killed at least 85 people, the Butte County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement.

There was limited access to residents on Wednesday, but the same neighborhoods will be opened to anyone on Thursday.

More than 50,000 people in the town and two neighboring communities were forced to flee the wind-driven flames that charred 240 square miles.

Authorities said 11 people are still unaccounted for in the deadliest U.S. wildfire in at least a century.

Limited resources: The communities will have very limited services for the immediate future, and authorities urged residents to bring food, water and fuel for vehicles with them.

Residents also were warned they should not move back into homes until ash and hazardous waste have been cleared away. And they were told that rain could increase risks in fire-impacted areas for flash floods and mud and debris flows.

The ferocious fire trapped people in cars and surrounded the town’s hospital — forcing the evacuation of about 60 patients. The hospital is still standing, but several smaller buildings, including hospital offices, were destroyed.

Officials said that the hospital will reopen but they have not said when that will happen.