California wildfire destroys homes, hospital; deaths reported

Evacuations ordered in Northern California as fast-moving wildfire spreads

A fast-moving wildfire roared through a Northern California town on Thursday, with deaths reported as it burned a hospital, hundreds of homes and sent tens of thousands of people fleeing flames in cars and on foot, authorities said.

Authorities fear the fire, fueled by winds, would reach the city of Chico - a city of 90,000 people where many Butte County families already have evacuated to shelters.

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Capt John Gaddie told the Associated Press that some residents in Paradise had been trapped by the fire.

Officials were sending as many firefighters as they could, Cal Fire spokesperson Rick Carhart said. "The wind that was predicted came and just wiped it out".

Much of the downtown was destroyed.

"The whole town's on fire", Scott Lotter, a town councilman, told the Sacramento Bee.

The previous record had been set less than a year before in another catastrophic fire that burned through more than 280,000 acres in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. The "Camp Fire" - as named by local officials - is expected to grow because of high winds and current dry conditions in the area.

The entire town had been evacuated earlier, with traffic backing up throughout the area as residents try to get to safety.

The smoke reported by residents in Berkeley, however, comes from a fire about 150 miles north in Butte County.

She drove under a golden-red sky to the main road that runs through Paradise.

Others described watching flames consume their property as they evacuated.

"We grabbed our animals and some food and some clothes and we're getting the heck out of here", one man said. "That's when I chose to get out". Fire officials said some structures have been destroyed in addition to injuries.

"We had to drive through flames to make it out safely", she said.

The Chico Fire Department said: "Firefighters continue to actively engage the fire in order to protect life and property". "We're still being very careful". Smoke from the flames has spread throughout Northern California. The cause of the fire has not yet been determined.

The California Highway Patrol shut down Highway 99, a major north-south thoroughfare, advising people to avoid the area.

Medical personnel evacuate patients as the Feather River Hospital burns while the Camp Fire rages through Paradise, Calif., on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018.

Past year the Tubbs Fire in nearby Napa and Sonoma counties killed 22 people. The fire earlier ripped through Paradise, about 30 kilometres east of Chico.

A California wildfire raced across a northern county in the state on Thursday, reducing the town of Paradise to ashes and injuring residents and first responders, fire officials said.

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