California wildfire destroys homes, hospital; deaths reported


A wind-driven wildfire raged through Southern California communities on Friday, burning homes and forcing thousands of people to flee as it relentlessly pushed toward tony Malibu and the Pacific Ocean.

When the sun rose Thursday over Paradise, Calif., the small town of 27,000 awoke to find the world looking largely as it always had.

In all, three major fires are burning across the state.

Thousands of people were evacuated from Paradise, home to 26,000 people, including from schools and hospitals.

More than 40 patients were evacuated to other facilities.

The Butte County Sheriff's office said the victims were found dead in vehicles that had been burned by the Camp Fire that left a trail of destruction in its path. Her deck provided a strong vantage point to monitor the spread of the fire.

Thousand Oaks was already reeling from a gunman's slaughter of a dozen people at a local bar only days earlier when it found itself under siege from the fire.

On Friday, the flames jumped Highway 101 and headed into coastal areas. Last night it covered just 2,000 acres.

Forecasts predict continued windy and dry conditions through the weekend, particularly in the northern part of the state, paired with low humidity, a lack of precipitation, and dry vegetation, which are expected to make fire danger worse in some of California's most populated areas. "All residents must evacuate now".

Other celebrities in southern California who have reported on social media that they were evacuated from their homes due to the fast-moving fires include Lady Gaga, Kim Kardashian West, her sister Kourtney Kardashian and Mark Hammill.

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Evacuations are now under way, with tens of thousands of people having already been forced to flee their homes, and hot and dry weather conditions are exacerbating the problem.

There is no listed containment percentage for the wildfire just yet. On Instagram she urged people to "pray for Calabasas".

Her husband, the rapper Kanye West, said their family was "safe".

Singer Cher, who has had a house in Malibu since 1972, also wrote: "I'm anxious about my house, but there is nothing I can do".

Oscar-winning director Guillermo del Toro tweeted that he had abandoned his vast "Bleak House" museum collection of fantasy and horror memorabilia, while singer Etheridge said she had moved into a hotel.

The fire in Paradise was reported shortly after daybreak Thursday.

Some may have lost their lives trying to flee the Camp Fire.

Flames from the unchecked, 20 000-acre (8 100-hectare) Camp Fire were being driven westward by 35-mile-per hour (56 km-per-hour) winds, fire officials said.

Many homes had propane tanks that were exploding amid the flames. Some were forced to abandon their cars and sprint to safety as the intense flames closed in.

"This was a rapidly moving fire", Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea told the Chico Enterprise-Record. There was alarm among some residents who anxious smoke created near the hazardous site could prove particularly risky, but authorities from the California Department of Toxic Substances Control who oversee the site say there is no evidence that smoke from the area around the SSFL is any more unsafe than other wildfire smoke.