Wildfire Destroys Entire Town As Massive Blazes Tear Through California

A fast-moving wildfire devastated a Northern California town of 26,000 people on Thursday with authorities unsure of the casualties as they struggled to contain 150-foot flames.

The school closures cover all districts in the county, including those in Paradise, Chico, Oroville and the Butte County Office of Education as well.

One manager of a mobile home park said her husband had struggled to alert as many residents as possible to the fire, hammering on doors and screaming for people to leave.

About two-thirds of the city of Malibu was ordered evacuated early Friday as the so-called "Woolsey Fire" roared toward the beachside community that is home for many Hollywood celebrities.

A nurse called Rita Miller at about 7 a.m. Thursday, telling her she had to get her disabled mother, who lives a few blocks away, and flee Paradise immediately.

Social media was flooded with apocalyptic imagery of smoke-filled skies and horizon lines of neon orange in what is becoming a familiar ritual in California. Ten years ago, a blaze struck Paradise, destroying dozens of structures and forced chaotic evacuations; the resulting panic was so alarming, angry residents showed up for months at community meetings demanding change. But the main facility, Adventist Health Feather River Hospital, was not, spokeswoman Jill Kinney said.

Firefighters battle to save structures while battling the Camp Fire in Paradise, California, U.S. November 8, 2018.

"The town, it looks like a blast zone from some sort of explosion", Bass said.

The fire started at about 6.30am yesterday morning and reached 5,000 acres in three hours, fueled by high winds but by late afternoon today, the fire had stretched to more than 20,000 acres.

Fire officials have issued evacuation notices for parts of Chico, a town of 93,000 people north of Sacramento. For a bit of perspective on how fast this fire is moving, CNN notes that it's burning the equivalent of 80 football fields every minute. Traffic accidents turned roads into gridlock and residents abandoned vehicles and ran from the flames, carrying children and pets, officials said. People posted photos on Twitter of missing seniors.

BFD spokesperson Keith May said BFD is sending one engine to assist the City of Oakland as its fire department responds to a fire on Highway 13, just south of Joaquin Miller Road.

Four hospital employees were briefly trapped in the basement and rescued by California Highway Patrol officers, Kinney said.

Firefighters are also working to contain a northern California fire - dubbed the "Camp Fire" - as it threatens thousands of homes and forced an emergency declaration to be placed in the city of Paradise.

"It's the black of night at 9 a.m.", McClean said.

"The blaze is being driven by fairly strong winds", Carhart said.

A Red Flag Warning is in place through Friday morning in the Butte County area, and winds are expected to gust at speeds as high as 40 miles per hour overnight, according to the National Weathers Service.

Vanessa Coleman