Eric Samways was walking his dog along East Hillcrest Drive in Thousand Oaks Friday afternoon when he saw smoke rising from a small hill on a property nearby.
The house next to the smoke had burned down, and he wanted to make sure the fire wouldn’t spread. The 40-year-old tied his dog to a pole on the street and walked over to where two small logs had caught fire.
Samways knocked on someone’s door, borrowed buckets, filled them with water and got to work. After he put out the flames, he turned his attention to several larger logs that were smoldering, but not on fire.
The Camp fire exploded to 70,000 acres in a little over 24 hours and has destroyed as many as 2,000 homes across Butte County, officials said. Thousands of residents in Paradise and nearby Northern California communities have been forced to evacuate their homes.
As the blaze continued to chew through the landscape Friday afternoon, an outpouring of support for victims had begun.
Several nonprofit organizations announced they were accepting donations — either monetary or in the form of supplies for evacuees.
Several California fires erupted over the span of 24 hours during a red-flag fire warning that encompassed the entire state. With fierce, gusting winds, the fires grew quickly, exploding thousands of acres in only a few hours.
In Butte County, the Camp fire erupted to more than 70,000 acres overnight after starting just after dawn Thursday. In Ventura and Los Angeles counties, the Hill and Woolsey fires, which began Thursday afternoon, collectively consumed more 20,000 acres.
The smoke from all of the fires were monitored from the skies — 440 miles above Earth’s surface. The National Weather Service released satellite images in a tweet Friday afternoon.
Inside Neighborhood Church, an evacuation center in Chico, blankets were bunched up on green cots. Residents, many from Paradise, sat next to the few things they were able to bring with them in the rush to flee their homes: prescriptions, purses, papers and pets.
In the hallway, people registered with Red Cross workers to help reassure friends and family members they were safe.
Outside, people wandered in the chilly air, masks covering their faces, as bits of ash fell like snowflakes from a red sky. Some watched news coverage of the Camp fire on a television near the entrance of the church, or walked their dogs around the parking lot. Others stood in lines for food or to speak with insurance companies, which had set up mobile booths.
High winds and dry conditions have exacerbated fires in Northern and Southern California causing deaths, destruction and evacuations. This NASA photo shows the massive smoke moving west as the fires rage.
Comcast has opened 3,200 Xfinity Wi-Fi hot spots throughout Yuba and Butte counties in Northern California to help residents and emergency personnel stay connected during the Camp fire, the company announced Friday.
The hot spots are free and are available to anyone, regardless of whether they are Xfinity customers. They are located indoors and out in places such as shopping districts, parks and businesses. For a map of locations, click here.
Shirley Hertel returned to her Thousand Oaks home Friday morning after watching it catch fire on TV just hours before.
The sight left her in tears.
Clutching her phone and singed newspaper clippings, she stood in her driveway and wept. Her daughter’s car, parked in the driveway, was reduced to its metal frame. The garage door and her daughter’s bedroom above it were burned too, the frame and windows now an ash black.
Taft High School Principal Daniel Steiner, a Newbury Park resident, headed back to school with his family early Friday morning.
His wife, two young children and dog camped out in his office as he tried to get his school — now an evacuation center— up and running. The fires and the mass shooting Wednesday night at Borderline Bar and Grill had led to some jangled nerves for both his family and his students.
“We feel safe, but no community is safe from these type of events,” Steiner said.