Tens of thousands of people were ordered to flee the fast-moving flames — dubbed the Camp Fire by officials — that exploded in size Thursday morning, threatening several communities and forcing panicked residents to race to help neighbours who had to drive through walls of flames to escape.
Sweeping wildfire destroys most of Paradise, Calif., several injured
"Pretty much the community of Paradise is destroyed, it's that kind of devastation," said Cal Fire Capt. Scott McLean late Thursday. "The wind that was predicted came and just wiped it out."
Separate wildfires rip through California, thousands flee
McLean estimated that a couple of thousand structures were destroyed in the town of 27,000 residents about 300 kilometres northeast of San Francisco, was ordered to get out. By nightfall on Thursday, it had consumed more than 73 square kilometres and firefighters had no containment on the blaze, McLean said.
"We have received reports of some fatalities. Those reports have not yet been verified," Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea told a news conference.
Butte County Fire Chief Darren Read says multiple civilians and two firefighters have been injured and a significant number of buildings — as many as several hundred — have been lost.
An Associated Press photographer found businesses and homes levelled or in flames, including a liquor store and gas station.
"It's bad," Honea told the Enterprise-Record. "We're trying to get as many people out as quickly as possible and save as many lives as we can."
Tens of thousands of people flee as wildfire wipes out California town of Paradise
"The whole town is burning," Bob Van Camp, a resident who escaped on his motorbike, told local TV channel Action News Now. "We had to ride through flames to get here," he said from the side of a road west of Paradise.
"It was absolutely dark," said resident Mike Molloy, who said he made a split decision based on the wind to leave Thursday morning, packing only the minimum and joining a sea of other vehicles.
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection tweeted that the fire broke out at about 6:30 a.m. local time in the Feather River Canyon, prompting an evacuation of the immediate area. Just hours later, as the fire spread, officials ordered the Paradise evacuation.
Footage shows driver escape flames while thousands flee Northern California wildfire
One woman who got out said people abandoned their vehicles and held babies and pets as they escaped.
Paradise, located on a ridge, has limited escape routes. Traffic accidents turned roads into gridlock and residents abandoned vehicles and ran from the flames, carrying children and pets, officials said. One woman who was stuck in traffic went into labor, the Enterprise-Record newspaper reported.
Gina Oviedo said there was fire everywhere as she got out of Paradise, adding that homes were engulfed in flames and utility poles were crashing down.
Paradise resident Kevin Winstead said the whole lower side of the town was burning. "Not one home will be left standing," he said.
In Ventura County, “Strong Santa Ana winds (are) expected to continue through this morning,” the National Weather Service in Los Angeles said on Twitter on Friday. That helped double the size of the Woolsey Fire to 8,000 acres (3238 hectares), fire officials said.
"It's really dry and we have low humidity and unfortunately those are great conditions for a fire to spread," said Cal Fire spokesman Rick Carhart.
"Every engine that we could put on the fire, is on the fire right now and more are coming," he said. "There are dozens of strike teams that we're bringing in from all parts of the state."
Fire ripped through residential areas and flames leapt from hospitals and schools, according to a Reuters witness, who saw a car dealership go up in flames on a street clogged with burned out vehicles and an abandoned police cruiser.
California wildfires: Butte County towns evacuated after fire spreads 10,000 acres | Daily Star
Shary Bernacett said she and her husband tried to get people to leave the mobile home park they manage in Paradise, with just minutes to evacuate, as the wildfire approached the east side of town.
Bernacett said they "knocked on doors, yelled and screamed" to alert as many of the residents of 53 mobile homes and recreational vehicles as possible to leave the area Thursday morning.
The blaze erupted as windy weather swept the state, creating extreme fire danger. A wind-whipped fire north of Los Angeles in Ventura County burned about 15,000 acres (23 square miles) and at least one home in a matter of hours. It prompted evacuations of a mobile home park, a state university campus and a small community. A nearby blaze was smaller at less than 1,000 acres (1.5 square miles) but moving quickly.
She and her husband grabbed their dog, jumped in their pickup truck and drove through three-metre-high flames before getting to safety. She said the air is black with smoke and ash.
Bernacett said the fire also overtook the hospital three kilometres east of the mobile home park. Adventist Health Feather River tweeted that it has managed to move all of its patients to other hospitals in the surrounding area.
California: tens of thousands evacuated as wildfire explodes in size
She says she heard from a friend that people, horses and dogs had congregated in a parking lot of a Kmart in Paradise.
A spokesman for Cal Fire told ABC News that dry conditions and winds in the state were exacerbating wildfire-prone conditions, and making it difficult for firefighters to battle the blaze. At least two firefighters were reportedly injured Thursday fighting the fire, but official injury reports were not yet available.
California is experiencing one of its worst fire years ever, with 251,610 hectares burned as of last Sunday in areas covered by Cal Fire, nearly twice the amount during the same period of 2017 and nearly triple the five-year average.
Video: Wildfire evacuee: Our town is flattened
It is a priority for CBC to create a website that is accessible to all Canadians including people with visual, hearing, motor and cognitive challenges.
Tens of thousands of people were forced to evacuate their homes on Thursday due to a fast-moving wildfire in northern California, dubbed the Camp Fire by local officials, The Hill reports.
California Fires Update: Chico Camp Fire in Butte County
Thursday, November 8, 2018, 6:10 PM – Thousands of people in California have had to flee ahead of a wildfire that has consumed thousands of hectares of land and continues to grow, courtesy of strong winds. Known as the Camp Fire, the blaze is burning in Butte County, in central California north of the state capital Sacramento. It began early Thursday morning, and and grew so rapidly that it reached some 18,000 acres (7,200 hectares) as of Thursday afternoon. As of Thursday evening, it remained zero per cent contained.
Aside from the winds, low relative humidity in the area was making firefighters jobs harder, and the area was under a red flag warning Thursday.
Some 20,000 people have been ordered to evacuate, according to the Houston Chronicle, and multiple highways in the area have been closed.
People grab babies, pets and abandon vehicles to flee California wildfire on foot
So far, Calfire says “multiple” structures have burned, and several people have had to be treated for burns, though no fatalities have been reported as of yet. Around 30,000 customers are without power as a result of the fire.
Video: Residents describe evacuating from Paradise as Camp Fire rages