The Camp Fire began early Thursday in Paradise, about 90 miles north of Sacramento, burning 20,000 acres and threatening 15,000 structures as it moved west toward Chico Thursday night, according to Cal Fire officials.
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.
As people fled in cars, some abandoned their vehicles, running from encroaching flames as they held babies in their arms and pets, said Gina Oviedo, who described a devastating scene as she evacuated the town of Paradise.
The wildfire was reported at 6:30 a.m., affecting about 30,000 people, Rick Carhart, a Cal Fire spokesman, said.
"Pretty much the community of Paradise is destroyed, it's that kind of devastation", said Cal Fire Capt. Scott McLean late tonight.
Smoke from the wind-driven fire, which started Thursday morning, can be seen from as far away as 150 miles.
At the hospital in Paradise, more than 60 patients were evacuated to other facilities and some buildings caught fire and were damaged.
"We had to drive through flames to make it out safely", she said.
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Some of the patients were initially turned around during their evacuation because of gridlocked traffic and later airlifted to other hospitals, along with staff, Kinney said. State fire authorities said they could not confirm the reports.
Jillian Smalley escaped her neighborhood as fire consumed everything around her. Flames and cinders crawled along the ground and up trees as she, her mother and grandmother fled the area.
Satellite footage shows how rapidly the fire grew in California..
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. "That's when I made a decision to get out". "All patients are being transported to surrounding area hospitals", a statement said.
"Right now, Mother Nature is in charge", Bennett said.
The California Highway Patrol closed a nearby highway and urged motorists to avoid the area.
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.
The 5,000-acre fire started off Camp Creek Road and Pulga Road, Jarbo Gap, off state Highway 70 in Feather River Canyon, according to FOX 40.