Forest / Wild Fire in USA on November 08 2018 06:40 PM (UTC).
Firefighters doused hot spots and smoldering flames Friday as the third day of rain allowed them to close in on fully containing the 2-week-old Camp Fire. The fire north of Sacramento has burned 153,336 acres since igniting on Nov. 8 and is 95 contained, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire. The death toll in the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in the state's history stands at 84. This week, some residents were allowed to return to their homes - or what was left of them - in parts of Magalia, which is home to about 11,310 people. The town of Paradise, destroyed in the fire, remained under mandatory evacuation. Pat Bronson, who lives in upper Magalia, went back to her home just before Thanksgiving. The 66-year-old moved to Magalia from Santa Cruz County nearly two years ago for a slower pace of life, she said. The flames were a quarter mile from her home, but Bronson's house was unscathed by the fire. "My heart just breaks for our community and the devastation and everybody's losses," Bronson said. "It's just so hard to see. I know so many people that have lost everything." Over the past two weeks, Bronson has stayed with friends in Chico and said she plans to remain in Chico until more residents return and Skyway, the main thoroughfare leading into Paradise and Magalia, reopens. "It seems like a ghost town," she said. "It's an eerie feeling, it's just not right." As the days have gone by this week, Bronson said she's noticed more and more cars parked in the neighborhoods leading toward her home. Still, residents' futures are uncertain. "It's never going to be the same as before. Everyone has to start a new normal," Bronson said. Residents returning to their homes are advised against living on destroyed properties until they are cleared of waste, Butte County public health officials said. The debris and ash are still toxic, and properties may contain high levels of heavy metals, arsenic, and other carcinogens, they said. A storm, the first of several expected throughout the region in the next few weeks, helped firefighters extinguish hot spots, and containment lines steadily held the flames from spreading, Cal Fire said. Crews continued working Friday in the devastated areas of Paradise, Magalia, and Concow to clear debris and repair power lines. The Butte County Sheriff's Office said 475 people remain missing, and search-and-recovery teams are continuing to scour the areas for victims. The storm hampered efforts to find and recover bodies. A major focus Friday was taking down trees that threatened the burn scar areas, said Brigitte Foster, a fire prevention officer with the Lassen National Forest. "There are still many trees within the fire area ... that has partially burned and need to be mitigated," she said. Crews are also "looking for hazard trees that may have been missed days ago and trying to get rid of them." Heavy rain poses the threat of debris- and mudslides, according to the National Weather Service. So far, though, there have been no reports of mudslides. "It's been hit or miss here with the rain," Foster said. "We have some little dry spells and then a dusting of rain, and sometimes it will rain a little hard. It's not a consistent rain that we have been having." The rainfall earlier this week threatened the area with flooding, slick roads, and falling trees. In preparation for the storm, crews in Paradise, Concow, and Magalia used trucks to vacuum soggy debris off the ground to prevent or reduce damage from slides. Workers also set up hay bales and sandbags to prevent the chance of floods. So far, 18,733 structures have been reported destroyed in the blaze, including 13,672 single-family homes. More than 52,000 people remain displaced. By Friday night, 1,606 fire personnel were battling the blaze, along with 106 fire engines, five water tenders, five helicopters, 21 hand crews, and 3 bulldozers.
The deadliest wildfire in 100 years in the United States, Northern California's Camp Fire, is nearly fully contained after burning for more than two weeks, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire). The massive fire, which has taken the lives of 84 people and scorched 153,336 acres (620 square kms), is 95 percent contained as of Friday morning, said Cal Fire in its latest incident update. The blaze which was first reported on Nov. 8 in Butte County, destroyed over 18,000 structures, including 13,954 residences, 514 commercial and 4,265 other buildings. More than 1,600 firefighters are still working on the scene, aided by 125 engines and 5 helicopters. They also got some help from the rain in the area in recent days. "The rain has assisted in extinguishing hot spots and smoldering fire. All containment lines continue to hold," said Cal Fire in its update report, adding that firefighters will continue patrolling for hazards while responding to calls for service throughout the fire area and fire suppression repair personnel continue to assess areas for rehabilitation and conduct repair. But local authorities also said that a flash flood watch is still in effect through Friday afternoon for the areas impacted by the Camp Fire. Officials warned local residents that they are at risk for flash flooding, mudflows and debris flows during periods of intense rainfall. The Camp Fire has become the deadliest wildfire in the United States since 1918's Cloquet Fire which killed 453 people in northern Minnesota, and the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in the history of the western U.S. state of California.
As rain spread across Northern California on Wednesday, containment of the Camp Fire in Butte County increased to 80 percent, Cal Fire said. The number of dead remained at 81, according to the agency's morning incident report. The number of missing people in the area stood at 870, with 1,864 people accounted for, according to the Butte County Sheriff's Office. Of the 81 fatalities, 56 have been tentatively identified, according to the Sheriff's Office. The wildfire grew slightly over the past day, reaching 153,336 acres on Wednesday, according to Cal Fire, which estimates complete containment will be reached by the end of the month. As of Tuesday evening, the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in state history had destroyed over 12,600 homes and more than 4,000 other structures, according to Cal Fire. Many evacuation orders remain in place. Cal Fire said established containment lines are holding. Firefighting crews continued to rehabilitate the fire area to try to lessen the impact of the rain. The National Weather Service predicts rain in Butte County from Wednesday potentially lasting through Saturday, which it warned could cause flash floods and debris flows in the fire zone. Caltrans announced Tuesday that the Pacific Coast Highway had been reopened to traffic in both directions, but parts of State Routes 70 and 191 were closed.
The death toll from the Camp Fire in Northern California increased Sunday to 77, while the number of people unaccounted for has reached 1,276. The blaze is 65 percent contained after consuming some 150,000 acres. In Southern California, just outside of Los Angeles, the Woolsey Fire is 91 percent contained after burning 96,949 acres and has killed three people there. Dense smoke from the fires has been smothering parts of the state with what has been described as "the dirtiest air in the world." Firefighters have been racing against time. Firefighters issued a red flag warning, which is issued for weather events which may result in extreme fire behavior, Saturday night into Sunday. Winds up to 50 mph and low humidity are possible. Rain is forecasted for mid-week, which could help firefighters but also complicate the challenging search for remains. "It's a disheartening situation," Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said. "As much as I wish we could get through this before the rains come, I don't know if that's possible." The town of Paradise, California, held a vigil Sunday night to remember the dozens who died in the wildfire that swept through the region. The vigil at First Christian Church in Chico was a time for residents to quietly reflect, pray, bring photos or moments of lost friends, family, and pets and was a chance to seek help from counselors and mental health experts. A sign at the vigil read: "We will rise from the ashes" and two hashtags: #paradisestrong #buttecountystorng People hugged and shed tears as Pastor Jesse Kearns recited a prayer for first responders: "We ask for continued strength as they are growing weary right now."
The number of people killed in California's deadliest wildfire rose Saturday to 76 as search and rescue continued the grim task of looking for the dead amid the ashes in Butte County, the sheriff said. The remains of five more people were found in Paradise and the community of Concow, Butte County Sheriff-Coroner Kory L. Honea said. Four of the remains were discovered in homes in Paradise, and one was found outside of a structure in Concow. In Southern California, three people have been killed in another wildfire, bringing the deaths from the two fires statewide to at least 79. The number of names on a list of people unaccounted for in the wake of the Camp Fire grew to 1,276, up from 1,011 on Friday, but Honea said some of those reports may be duplicates or people who survived but who have not looked at the list or notified authorities. More than 700 people previously listed as unaccounted for have been found, he said. Of the 76 dead, officials have tentatively identified 63. The Camp Fire that broke out early morning on Nov. 8 was whipped by high winds and moved so fast that at one point it was estimated to have been burning the equivalent of 80 football fields a minute, said Sacramento Fire Capt. Chris Vestal. "It burned about 6,000 acres from the initial reports within the first couple of hours," Vestal said. Sacramento is around 80 miles south of Paradise. When Vestal reached Paradise, he said the destruction was hard to put into words. "It's a mess," Vestal said. "There's really no way to describe just the pure devastation - there are very few homes left, the damage to retail and commercial buildings is significant," he said.
Investigators in California revealed Thursday night that another seven sets of human remains have been found in the northern part of the state's Camp Fire, bringing the total number of people killed to 63. Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said that of those found dead, 53 have been positively identified. Three of the bodies were found in Paradise - a town of 27,000 that has been destroyed by the inferno. Another three were found in Magalia and one was discovered in Concow. The number of people who remain unaccounted for in the Northern California area increased to 631, by more than 500 people, officials said. Some 52,000 people have been displaced. The wildfire - which started on Nov. 8 - remains the deadliest in California state history, leaving more than 8,500 structures destroyed and 140,000 acres of land scorched. It was 40 percent contained as of Thursday night. President Trump is scheduled to travel to the Golden State on Saturday to visit victims of fires in both the northern and southern ends of the state. In Southern California, the Woolsey Fire has reportedly left three people dead. The wildfire has destroyed roughly 500 structures in Malibu and neighboring areas, as it's burned more than 98,000 acres with a 62 percent containment.
The Camp and Woolsey fires raging in Northern and Southern California have prompted federal officials to declare a public health emergency in the state. Alex Azar, the secretary of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, announced the declaration Tuesday night, allowing Medicare and Medi-Cal health care service providers "greater flexibility" in assisting survivors of the wildfires. "This declaration will help ensure that Americans who are threatened by these dangerous wildfires and who rely on Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children's Health Insurance Program have continuous access to the care they need," Azar said in a statement. "We are working closely with state health authorities and monitoring the needs of healthcare facilities to provide whatever they may need to save lives and protect health." The announcement comes a day after President Trump approved a declaration of a major disaster for Butte, Ventura and Los Angeles counties - all three of which are affected by the Camp Fire and Woolsey Fire, respectively. Trump's declaration makes wildfire survivors eligible for home repair and temporary housing grants, and for low-cost loans to pay for property loss that insurance doesn't cover. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development also announced Tuesday it would support homeowners and low-income renters who fled from their residences to escape the blazing wildfires. Regional emergency coordinators with the health and human services department have been deployed to coordinate with state, local and emergency response personnel in California, officials said. Officials said the Disaster Distress Helpline, controlled by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, will also be available for anyone seeking assistance 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Callers can reach the helpline at 800-985-5990 or text "TalkWithUs" to 66746 to communicate with a crisis counselor.
The "Camp Fire" in Northern California has scorched some 130,000 acres and is 35 percent contained, according to officials Tuesday night. In addition, the "Camp Fire" death toll has now reached 48. Statewide there are a total of 50 deaths. Some 9,000 firefighters have been battling the wildfires, which have become the deadliest and costliest in state history. Search teams have been using power saws and cadaver dogs to try to locate victims of the "Camp Fire." Those who survived have been scrambling to find a place to stay. In Southern California, evacuation orders were lifted for many of the areas affected by the "Woolsey Fire," but some came home only to be told to leave again. "It's terrible," said Alex Goodwin of Hidden Valley. "We evacuated, thought the danger was done, and then, of course, came back thinking it was safe ... and it's terrifying." There are some 5,615 personnel fighting the blaze. Some 52,000 people have been evacuated. A total of 8,817 structures have been destroyed. Of those, 7,600 are homes. There are a total of 1,385 shelters. Officials have urged residents to use "extreme caution" when they return to property hit by the wildfire. They have warned about trees marked with P1 and P2 -- meaning they are hazardous. The Butte County sheriff's office said there have been 208 suspicious incidents reported. Of those reports, 18 of them were linked to looting. Deputies arrested Monday two men linked to looting a residence within an evacuated area and were in possession of a gun. They were booked into the Butte County jail. Earlier Tuesday, deputies arrested another two men who were found looting and booked into Butte County jail. Also, deputies found a motor home that was previously reported stolen and arrested a 22-year-old man and a 22-year-old woman linked to that crime.
Thirteen more bodies have been recovered in California, bringing the death toll in the US state's deadliest wildfire to 42, officials say. The remains were found in and around the largely incinerated town of Paradise, in the north of the state. At least 228 people are missing as the Camp Fire continues to rage. Nearly 7,200 structures have been destroyed, and another 15,500 are at risk. The fire has now surpassed the 1933 Griffith Park disaster that killed 31. Speaking at a news conference on Monday evening, Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea confirmed the number of dead and the official number of missing. Many more people are said to be unaccounted for. In the south of the state, other wildfires are menacing lives and property. The Woolsey Fire has so far killed two people as it damaged beach resorts, including Malibu. More than 300,000 locals have been forced to flee their homes across California. President Trump has declared a "major disaster" in the state, making federal aid available to affected residents. Paradise and its surrounding areas bore the brunt of the Camp Fire - the largest blaze - which started in the nearby forest on Thursday. Some bodies were found in gutted cars that were overrun by the fast-moving fire, as residents scrambled to evacuate overnight. Sorrell Bobrink, a Paradise resident who managed to drive away with her child, told BBC World Service radio she was first woken up and alerted by a phone call from a friend. She described the scene as "exactly like any apocalyptic movie I have ever seen" and said she did not know if she was driving towards death or out of harm's way as the sky blackened. "I had to drive through the fire - it was awful. It was probably the most awful experience I will have in my life," she told the Newsday programme. "It was traumatizing, we will be traumatized for a long time. My whole community was traumatized - I can't watch the videos anymore because I actually went through it." Many of the victims are believed to be elderly residents or people with mobility issues who would find evacuating more difficult. Forensic experts are stepping up their search in the ruins of Paradise, but officials warn that finding the bodies could take weeks. Cadaver dogs are being brought in by local police to try and locate the dead, and two mobile army morgues will be used to help identify them. The fire has burned more than 111,000 acres (45,000 hectares) and is nearly 25% contained, fire officials said. The separate Woosley Blaze started on Thursday near Thousand Oaks, about 40 miles (64km) north-west of central Los Angeles. It has consumed at least 85,500 acres and destroyed at least 177 buildings, officials said. It is only 10% contained. The smaller Hill Fire, nearby, has scorched 4,530 acres and is 75% contained.
Authorities searched on Monday for more than 200 people unaccounted for in one of the wildfires rampaging through parts of California, voicing concern about a possible rising death toll, as gusty, dry winds spurred the spreading flames. The raging blaze in northern California known as the Camp Fire, the state's most destructive on record, had left at least 228 people missing as of early Monday, according to Kory Honea, sheriff of Butte County, site of the fire. That fire and one in southern California called the Woolsey Fire have killed at least 31 people. The blazes left behind scenes of utter ruin, with homes and businesses reduced to the charred wreckage and the winds also spreading large amounts of ash. Both fires have been whipped up by hot dry winds. Winds of up to 40 miles per hour (64 km per hour) were expected to continue in southern California through Tuesday, heightening the risk of fresh blazes ignited by scattered embers, while the winds were forecast to begin diminishing later on Monday at the site of the Camp Fire. The wildfires flared in two new locations on Monday morning in southern California, officials said. The fires have displaced more than 224,000 people, officials said. About 8,000 firefighters using firefighting equipment including helicopters and air tankers were battling the flames, with assistance coming from out of state. The Camp Fire, 40 miles (60 km) north of Sacramento, burned down more than 6,700 homes and businesses in the town of Paradise, more structures than any other wildfire recorded in California. The fire had scorched more than 113,000 acres (45,729 hectares) and was 25 percent contained, officials said on Monday. Its death toll of 29 equals that of the Griffith Park Fire in 1933, the deadliest wildfire on record in California. The blaze has probably caused between $2 billion and $4 billion in insured property damage, Morgan Stanley estimated in a report on Monday.
A fast-moving wildfire that has ravaged the town of Paradise has grown to 70,000 acres and is only five percent contained. On Friday morning, The Butte County Sheriff's Office confirmed that five people have been found dead in vehicles torched by flames. The victims were found in the same area in the town of Paradise. "We were surrounded by fire, we were driving through fire on each side of the road," said police officer Mark Bass, who lives in the hard-hit town of Paradise and works in neighboring Chico. He evacuated his family and then returned to the fire to help rescue several disabled residents, including a man trying to carry his bedridden wife to safety. "It was just a wall of fire on each side of us, and we could hardly see the road in front of us." After the fire broke out, many abandoned their cars on the side of the road, running from the flames on foot. Cars and trucks, some with trailers attached, were left on the roadside as evacuees ran for their lives, said Bass, the police officer. "They were abandoned because traffic was so bad, backed up for hours." Thousands have evacuated from the massive blaze that has destroyed a couple of thousand structures. Harrowing tales of escape and heroic rescues emerged from Paradise, where the entire community of 27,000 was ordered to evacuate. Witnesses reported seeing homes, supermarkets, businesses, restaurants, schools and a retirement home up in flames. "Pretty much the community of Paradise is destroyed, it's that kind of devastation," said Cal Fire Capt. Scott McLean late Thursday. He estimated that a couple of thousand structures were destroyed in the town about 180 miles northeast of San Francisco. The fire in Paradise was reported shortly after daybreak in a rural area. By nightfall, it had consumed more than 28 square miles (73 square kilometers) and firefighters had no containment on the blaze, McLean said. "It's a very dangerous and very serious situation," Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said. "We're working very hard to get people out. The message I want to get out is: If you can evacuate, you need to evacuate." Several evacuation centers were set up in nearby towns. Residents described fleeing their homes and then getting stuck on gridlocked roads as flames approached, sparking explosions and toppling utility poles.

"Things started exploding," said resident Gina Oviedo. "People started getting out of their vehicles and running." Thick gray smoke and ash filled the sky above Paradise and could be seen from miles away. "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. At the hospital in Paradise, more than 60 patients were evacuated to other facilities. Some buildings caught fire and were damaged but the main facility, Adventist Health Feather River Hospital, was not, spokeswoman Jill Kinney said. Some of the patients were initially turned around during their evacuation because of gridlocked traffic and later airlifted to other hospitals, along with some staff, Kinney said. Four hospital employees were briefly trapped in the basement and rescued by California Highway Patrol officers, Kinney said. Concerned friends and family posted frantic messages on Twitter and other sites saying they were looking for loved ones, particularly seniors who lived at retirement homes or alone. Chico police officer John Barker and his partner evacuated several seniors from an apartment complex. "Most of them were immobile with walkers, or spouses that were bed-ridden, so we were trying to get additional units to come and try and help us, just taking as many as we could," he said, describing the community as having "a lot of elderly, a lot of immobile people, some low-income with no vehicles." Kelly Lee called shelters looking for her husband's 93-year-old grandmother, Dorothy Herrera, who was last heard from on Thursday morning. Herrera, who lives in Paradise with her 88-year-old husband Lou Herrera, left a frantic voicemail at around 9:30 a.m. saying they needed to get out. "We never heard from them again," Lee said. "We're worried sick. ... They do have a car, but they both are older and can be confused at times." Acting California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency in the area and requested a federal emergency declaration, saying that high winds and dry brush presented an ongoing danger. The fire in Southern California was being whipped up Thursday evening by powerful winds that pushed it through canyons and to the edge of Camarillo Springs and Cal State Channel Islands, both of which were evacuated, The Los Angeles Times reported. The blaze broke out in the Hill Canyon area and in just 12 minutes jumped the 101 Freeway. By Thursday evening, it had scorched up to 7,000 acres and sent residents of more than 1,200 homes fleeing. Fire officials said they expected it to burn all the way to the ocean. Television reports showed several homes on fire in the Oak Park community. Authorities shut down the 101 Freeway in both directions at Camarillo Springs Road.
A fast-moving wildfire that ravaged a Northern California town on Nov. 8 sent residents racing to escape on roads that turned into tunnels of fire as thick smoke darkened the daytime sky, wiping out what a Cal Fire official said was a couple of thousand structures. "We were surrounded by fire, we were driving through fire on each side of the road," said police officer Mark Bass, who lives in the hard-hit town of Paradise and works in neighboring Chico. He evacuated his family and then returned to the fire to help rescue several disabled residents, including a man trying to carry his bedridden wife to safety. "It was just a wall of fire on each side of us, and we could hardly see the road in front of us." Harrowing tales of escape and heroic rescues emerged from Paradise, where the entire community of 27,000 was ordered to evacuate. Witnesses reported seeing homes, supermarkets, businesses, restaurants, schools, and a retirement home up in flames. "Pretty much the community of Paradise is destroyed, it's that kind of devastation," said Cal Fire Capt. Scott McLean late on Nov. 8. He estimated that a couple of thousand structures were destroyed in the town about 180 miles northeast of San Francisco. Meanwhile, portions of Southern California remained under siege early Nov. 9 with reports that two large fires had scorched about 15,000 acres and were threatening numerous communities. ABC7.com reported that some 75,000 homes are under evacuation orders along the border of Ventura and Los Angeles counties. The National Weather Service issued red-flag warnings for fire dangers in many areas of the state, saying low humidity and strong winds were expected to continue through the evening . The fire in Paradise was reported shortly after daybreak in a rural area. By nightfall, it had consumed more than 28 square miles and firefighters had no containment on the blaze, Mr. McLean said. In the midst of the chaos, officials said they could not provide figures on the number of wounded, but County Cal Fire Chief Darren Read said at a news conference that at least two firefighters and multiple residents were injured. "It's a very dangerous and very serious situation," Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said. "We're working very hard to get people out. The message I want to get out is: If you can evacuate, you need to evacuate." Several evacuation centers were set up in nearby towns. Residents described fleeing their homes and then getting stuck on gridlocked roads as flames approached, sparking explosions and toppling utility poles. "Things started exploding," said resident Gina Oviedo. "People started getting out of their vehicles and running." Many abandoned their cars on the side of the road, fleeing on foot. Cars and trucks, some with trailers attached, were left on the roadside as evacuees ran for their lives, said Mr. Bass, the police officer. "They were abandoned because traffic was so bad, backed up for hours." Thick gray smoke and ash filled the sky above Paradise and could be seen from miles away. "It was absolutely dark," said resident Mike Molloy, who said he made a split decision based on the wind to leave the morning of Nov. 8, packing only the minimum and joining a sea of other vehicles. At the hospital in Paradise, more than 60 patients were evacuated to other facilities. Some buildings caught fire and were damaged but the main facility, Adventist Health Feather River Hospital, was not, spokeswoman Jill Kinney said. Some of the patients were initially turned around during their evacuation because of gridlocked traffic and later airlifted to other hospitals, along with some staff, Ms. Kinney said. Four hospital employees were briefly trapped in the basement and rescued by California Highway Patrol officers, Kinney said. Concerned friends and family posted frantic messages on Twitter and other sites saying they were looking for loved ones, particularly seniors who lived at retirement homes or alone. Chico police officer John Barker and his partner evacuated several seniors from an apartment complex. "Most of them were immobile with walkers, or spouses that were bed-ridden, so we were trying to get additional units to come and try and help us, just taking as many as we could," he said, describing the community as having "a lot of elderly, a lot of immobile people, some low-income with no vehicles." Acting California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency in the area and requested a federal emergency declaration, saying that high winds and dry brush presented ongoing danger.
Tens of thousands of people fled a fast-moving wildfire Thursday in Northern California, some clutching babies and pets as they abandoned vehicles and struck out on foot ahead of the flames that forced the evacuation of an entire town and destroyed hundreds of structures. "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." McLean estimated that a couple of thousand structures were destroyed in the town of 27,000 residents about 180 miles (290 kilometers) northeast of San Francisco, was ordered to get out. The extent of the injuries and specific damage count was not immediately known as officials could not access the dangerous area. Butte County CalFire Chief Darren Read said at a news conference that two firefighters and multiple residents were injured. As she fled, Gina Oviedo described a devastating scene in which flames engulfed homes, sparked explosions and toppled utility poles. "Things started exploding," Oviedo said. "People started getting out of their vehicles and running." An Associated Press photographer saw dozens of businesses and homes leveled or in flames, including a liquor store and gas station. "It's a very dangerous and very serious situation," Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said. "I'm driving through fire as we speak. We're doing everything we can to get people out of the affected areas." 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 up to 15 square miles and at least one home in a matter of hours. It threatened thousands of homes and prompted evacuations of a mobile home park, a state university campus and some neighborhoods. A nearby blaze was smaller at about 2 square miles but moving quickly. Acting California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency for the fire-stricken area in Northern California. Shari Bernacett said her husband tried to get people to leave the Paradise mobile home park they manage. He "knocked on doors, yelled and screamed" to alert as many residents as possible, Bernacett said. "My husband tried his best to get everybody out. The whole hill's on fire. God help us!" she said before breaking down crying. She and her husband grabbed their dog, jumped in their pickup truck and drove through flames before getting to safety, she said. Terrifying videos posted on social media showed cars driving along roads that looked like tunnels of fire with flames on both sides of the road.

Concerned friends and family posted frantic messages on Twitter and other sites saying they were looking for loved ones, particularly seniors who lived at retirement homes or alone. Among them was Kim Curtis, who was searching for her grandmother, who told family at 8 a.m. Thursday that she would flee her Paradise home in her Buick with her cat. Her grandmother, who is in her 70s and lives alone, never showed up up at a meeting spot in Chico, though. "We've just been posting all over social media. And just praying for a miracle, honestly," said Curtis, who lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. Officials were sending as many firefighters as they could, Cal Fire spokesman Rick Carhart said. "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." The sheriff confirmed reports that evacuees had to abandon their vehicles. Rescuers were trying to put them in other vehicles, he said. "We're working very hard to get people out. The message I want to get out is: If you can evacuate, you need to evacuate," Honea said. The wildfire was reported around daybreak. Within six hours, it had grown to more than 26 square miles (69 square kilometers), Gaddie said. Thick gray smoke and ash filled the sky above Paradise and could be seen from miles away. Fire officials said the flames were being fueled by winds, low humidity, dry air and severely parched brush and ground from months without rain. "Basically, we haven't had rain since last May or before that," said Read, the fire chief. "Everything is a very receptive fuel bed. It's a rapid rate of spread." At the hospital in Paradise, more than 60 patients were evacuated to other facilities and some buildings caught fire and were damaged. But the main facility, Adventist Health Feather River Hospital, was not, spokeswoman Jill Kinney said. 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. Four hospital employees were briefly trapped in the basement and rescued by California Highway Patrol officers, Kinney said. The National Weather Service issued red-flag warnings for fire dangers in many areas of the state, saying low humidity and strong winds were expected to continue through Friday evening.