Poles consumed by the flames, carcasses of cars with tinted windows melted, stray cat’s coat was covered with soot: ravaged by the fire of the most destructive ever seen in California, Paradise is like a ghost-city. At least 25 people died in the fires that have ravaged tens of thousands of hectares. “Devastation, total devastation,” says, aghast, Mark Nees, a firefighter arrived on the eve of the Oregon neighbor to help his fellow californians to the work in this city located in the county of Butte, north of Sacramento, California’s capital. “It is really incredible. We responded to many fires over the years, but personally this is what I’ve seen, the worst,” says the team leader, who is about to rake an area affected by the fire to secure it.

In the city centre as in the periphery, many houses – mainly built of wood in California – have been totally destroyed. Some of the buildings were strangely spared, like a garage, almost untouched, surrounded by a fence made of white plastic melted by the heat.

Trucks red and combinations of yellow, fire-fighters are at, with the pick-up blue of the workers of the electricity company, the only touches of color in these fumaroles, and ashes gray: the 27.000 inhabitants of Paradise have been evacuated in the disaster on Thursday, some out of little flames. Others have not had this chance.

The buildings were totally destroyed JUSTIN SULLIVAN/AFP

Saturday, Kory Honea, the sheriff of the county of Butte, has announced that rescuers had found the bodies of 14 people killed in that fire, which brings the total number of dead to 23. Nineteen were found to Paradise and four in the region of Concow, in the county of Butte, has he said. The inhabitants were always kept away Saturday, state of emergency requires, explains to AFP a police officer. Despite the protests of residents who want to try to find a loved one, a pet, or simply to know if their house is still standing, dozens of vehicles are forced to turn back.

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other evacuees wait in anguish near the police roadblock. Like Katie McCrary, old lady, modestly, and without a mobile phone, which remains without news of his son and grandchildren. “I don’t know if they go well, if they were able to escape. I have been in accommodation centres in Chico (the city nearby, editor’s note) but they are not there”, she says twisting her hands. “I don’t know where to look! I just hope to see them coming down the hill…”, says Katie, traces of soot on the sweater and visibly exhausted after having spent two nights in his car on the side of the road.

The posts have been consumed by the flames JOSH EDELSON/AFP

Several dozen people were still unaccounted for Saturday. “Our neighbor and his daughter remained. We have not been able to join them, and they live just below us,” said Jodie Colvard, head of the company who was absent at the time of the evacuation. She also looks, and is worried about her German shepherd, she has not been able to go look at it. An employee of the electricity took his address and promised to go see her neighbor and his dog. “If the house is still there,” says she, sobs in the voice.

aerial View of the flames which ravage the region JOSHUA STEVENS/AFP

The fire, which has already consumed over 400 square kilometres of scrub and forests, moved, and continued to rage Saturday. He was content to 20%. But what remains of Paradise is not so far away. “It is still very early,” explains Mark Nees. “It is anticipated an episode of wind from this (Saturday) evening until Monday morning, with again a red flag for the risk of a fire.” “In the city, there are places that have not burned, and new fires could happen if the wind throws embers”, he says, before setting to the task. He and his men want to do everything possible to ensure that “things don’t worsen, in the hope that people can move back one day”.

A restaurant chain Jack in the box did not withstand the passage of flame JOSH EDELSON/AFP