Lives feared lost as thousands flee wildfire


Thousands of residents are evacuating Northern California as an uncontained, fast-moving wildfire approaches several towns in the Sierra foothills.

Cal Fire Capt. Scott McLean said Paradise is no longer standing. "The wind that was predicted came and just wiped it out". The extent of the injuries and damage was not immediately known.

Kambourian said he started getting text messages from his church group on Thursday morning saying a fire had broken out in his hometown of Paradise.

"It's a very unsafe and very serious situation".

Chuck Kambourian's wife was about to drive their children to school when they got caught by the fire. "We're doing everything we can to get people out of the affected areas".

At least one nursing home and hospital were evacuated and several homes were on fire, according to the Sacramento Bee, and the region is covered with thick, dark smoke.

The fire exploded in size after it was spotted on Thursday morning and continues to grow.

Percifield left in his pickup truck for an emergency meeting place in a field outside town, finding himself on an empty road with the fire a swelling inferno on both sides of the road around him.

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.

"My husband tried his best to get everybody out". He started putting out the fire and yelled at her to get back inside, she says. God help us!' Bernacett said before breaking down crying.

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Groups of fleeing residents gathered in a Kmart parking lot in Paradise, with their dogs and some with horses, waiting to be evacuated, said Shelley Freeman who spoke to a relative and friends in Paradise. Her grandmother, who is in her 70s and lives alone, never showed up up at a meeting spot in Chico, though.

Many people took to social media to register their distress. "And just praying for a miracle, honestly", Ms Curtis said.

Google's 2018 Statewide Fire Map for California lists all the active fires in the state for which California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) is responding.

"Right now, Mother Nature is in charge", Bennett said.

He confirmed reports that evacuees had to abandon their vehicles as they fled the scene.

Others described watching flames consume their property as they evacuated. It's very surreal. Things always work out, but the unknown is a little scary. "That's when I chose to get out".

The fire was reported shortly after daybreak in a rural area. Within six hours, it had grown to more than 26 square miles (69 square kilometers), Gaddie said.

A red flag warning is in effect in the area, meaning Thursday will bring 20-to-40-mph winds and low humidity that threaten to spread the wildfire.

County Fire Chief, Darren Read said the town of Chico, with population of 93,000, could be next in the path of the wildfire.