Jason WilsonLast modified on Tue 31 Jul 2018 10.11 BST
Experts say the state’s increasingly ferocious wildfires are not an aberration – they are the new reality
Roger Gray has lived in his suburban subdivision in a quiet California city for 30 years. On Thursday, it was struck by a jaw-dropping geophysical phenomenon.
Gray had defied orders to evacuate Redding, in the far north of the state, which was threatened by the fast-growing Carr fire outside town. He and his neighbors wanted to defend their homes. A Navy veteran, Gray worked 10 hours preparing his house and was already exhausted when he saw plumes of smoke in the distance. “Then they started to swirl together, and I’m going, ‘Oh, we’re in trouble,’” he said.
His wife evacuated without him, driving through a maelstrom of smoke and burning tree limbs. Not long after, “it was raining fire”, Gray said. He could hear exploding paint cans and ammunition in the distance; he guessed the flames were 100m tall. “Are we going to die?” his neighbor asked him.
The firenado, a huge, rotating whorl of smoke, flame and ash, was upon them.