Watch: Residents in California return after wildfire havoc; several still missing

Paradise Town reopens as locals grieving over burnt down homes Photograph:( Reuters )

Reuters California, USA Nov 23, 2018, 02.40 PM (IST)

Residents of Paradise Town, northern California, the most severely affected place in the wildfires, started making their way back on Thursday to what is left of their burned down properties and belongings as sections of roads leading to the town have reopened.

Wildfires in northern California have killed at least 83 people and left 563 others unaccounted for as of Thursday afternoon, according to local fire department. More than 90 per cent of the fires in northern California have been brought under control.

Robin Wells and his father Robert Wells were one of the first ones to return. Although they were psychologically prepared for the worse, the sight of the house they had lived in for decades and all of their belongings burned down to ashes that greeted them filled them with emotions.

"Sad, and now I just can't wrap it around my head that this really happened. Feels like it's so unreal but at the same time it's real. My feelings are very emotional right now, just devastation of this whole entire community, and devastation of everybody losing everything," said Robin Wells.

Robert said that he was terrified when the wildfires broke out and until now cannot believe he had escaped from the inferno. All he remembered was the suffocating dense smoke and the darkness around him.

Robin said she was more than 40 kilometers away when she heard the news that the wildfires broke out in the area. She added she immediately rushed home because her father has difficulties moving on his own and she knew it would be impossible for him to evacuate. She was so worried that she called the police on her way and feared the worse when the road to her neighbourhood had been blocked, leaving a lot of cars stranded.

"My response was to get to him as fast as I could and everybody was fleeing out, and I was trying to come up Neal roadway and the road was already blocked. So what happened was I jumped out of my car, and talked to the police officer and said that I need to get to my dad, he cannot get out. It was so horrible, it was driving into blackness, I had to turn on my lights, it was daytime but yet the whole entire sky was black. And you could see smoke," said Robin.

Robin was soon relieved to learn from her neighbours that they had taken her father with them and she was able to meet with him that night. Robin said that Paradise Town used to be a place with beautiful scenery and fresh air. Her parents raised her and her brother in the town and the family has lots of wonderful memories. Now, the wildfires have left them with nothing.

Robert added that although his whole family is from Paradise Town, he and his daughter might have to leave this place to start a new life somewhere else.

"I don't really want to [come back] even though my family is over at the cemetery. I don't know, I just, it will be hard to keep looking at the devastation every day. It was a good town," said Robert Wells.