Officials order evacuations as Camp Fire threatens Northern California

Thousands flee fast-moving wildfire in Northern California

The blaze dubbed the Camp Fire, swept through the town of Paradise, driven by high winds and dry conditions, with social media reports that a hospital, high school and K-Mart store were on fire.

Residents of Butte County ― and particularly Paradise, California, and its surrounding towns ― have been ordered to evacuate and take shelter in local churches in the neighboring town of Chico.

The blaze surrounded the Feather River Hospital, causing hospital staff to evacuate patients via life flight and search and rescue teams, McClean said.

With limited escape routes from the town, which is built on a ridge, traffic accidents turned roads into gridlock, with residents forced to abandon vehicles and run from the flames carrying children and pets, officials said. Dry, windy conditions are making it hard to contain the fire. God help us!' Bernacett said before breaking down crying.

Cal Fire spokesman Scott McClean said the fire is burning toward the city of Chico but he's "not necessarily" concerned the fire will breach the city limits.

Shari Bernacett said she and her husband tried to get people to leave the mobile home park they manage in Paradise and had minutes to evacuate.

The destructive Camp Fire has already burned over 18,000 acres of Butte County, Northern California as of Thursday afternoon, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. By Thursday afternoon, the fire was growing at the rate of about one football field every three seconds, assisted by dry conditions and wind gusts of up to 65 miles per hour. The whole hill's on fire. It's very surreal. Things always work out, but the unknown is a little scary.

Smoke from the wind-driven fire, which started Thursday morning, can be seen from as far away as 150 miles.

Others described watching flames consume their property as they evacuated.

Large swaths of the state are under a "red flag" fire hazard warning, and the National Weather Service Sacramento office forecasts the blaze will continue through Friday night.

Hospital spokeswoman Jill Kinney said all patients were evacuated.

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