Page last updated at 19:37 GMT, Sunday, 16 November 2008

Wildfire eyewitness: 'Hell on earth'


John Rauber's footage of LA wildfires

When a community near Los Angeles was ordered to leave their homes as devastating wildfires swept through the area, resident John Rauber decided to wait out the blaze at home.

He told the BBC News website what he saw as the inferno devastated the suburb of Yorba Linda.

Yesterday the fire passed through town. This town is now pockets of devastation.

We had been ordered to evacuate but I didn't go. My neighbour is a veteran fireman. He said that the authorities could not legally make us leave.

"Just follow my lead because we could use the hoses and save the house if we have to. If I decide it's time to leave, I can make the call," he told me.

We are far enough away where we felt we could be safe. We were up on my roof with the hose and the video camera just watching everywhere. It was scary but I didn't think we were going to die. If it did come this way, I knew the area well enough that we could run to a place where it wouldn't burn - like a dirt field.

I told my wife and son to leave.

But my ex-fire-fighter neighbour and I stayed. We had masks on and goggles on. There were 28 fire trucks from all over southern California. They all just came to Yorba Linda to try and save the place.

'Hell on earth'

We were hit with the dry Santa Ana winds. They were 50-miles-per-hour pretty consistent wind. There's a lot of brush and a huge mass of hills, a lot of fuel to burn and it was burning out of control. The wind would lift burning embers and it would burn wherever they were thrown.

Now I can see around us nothing but charred, burned hills.

You could hear it, feel it, it was hell on earth. There was so much smoke, there was so much mayhem and sirens and sheriffs were talking about mandatory evacuation. It was surreal.

The flames were 20 feet tall rolling through the hill. You couldn't do anything but get out of its way.

There's a lot of brush and a huge mass of hills, a lot of fuel to burn and it was burning out of control
We are about 500 yards from the hill and that was the torch. It was what absolutely burned, there was no way that anybody could stop it. There are a huge amount of hills here and the wind would just lift up a bush and all of a sudden a ball of fire would flare up and blow and land somewhere.

We're far enough away from that hill and the direction of the wind was in our favour. The firemen were saying that it was not going to come down here.

Firemen was saying it is not going to come down here.

Everything is still shut down. Last night was one of the scariest nights. It was spooky. No one was around but the firemen. Now it's all just burned. I can see massive smoke, huge smoke, but the wind is blowing it away from me right now. It's hot and dry.

It's still shut off here. You can't get up here now.

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