Fiji Time: 10:19 PM on Friday 23 February

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Rescue operation

Reuters
Friday, October 13, 2017

Helicopter pilot Pete Gavitte peered through his night vision goggles late on Sunday as he approached a fast-growing wildfire near the California wine country town of Napa and instantly knew there was trouble ahead.

"We saw that it was actually really large, looked like a nuke had gone off or something," said Mr Gavitte, an 18-year veteran of the California Highway Patrol.

As sirens blared from his helicopter, residents were grabbing their belongings and jumping into their cars to head down Atlas Peak Rd, the only way out of the rural community.

But unbeknownst to those on the ground, flames would soon engulf the road, with downed trees and power poles blocking any exit.

Over the next few days, the raging fires had killed 21 people and destroy 3500 homes and businesses.

Strong, dry winds are expected to fan new outbreaks in coming days.

"We could see pretty well this huge, three-mile and growing line of fire coming toward all these folks that probably couldn't see it," Mr Gavitte said.

He shined his searchlight on drivers to get their attention and prompt them to stop.








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