A fast-moving wildfire roared through a Northern California town on Thursday, with reports of fatalities as it burned hundreds of homes and sent tens of thousands of people fleeing 50-foot-high (15.25-metres-high) flames, authorities and a Reuters witness said.
Pacific Gas and Electric Company said about 14,000 residents of Butte and Plumas counties were without power due to fire activity and requests from firefighters to cut electricity in certain areas for safety, Sacramento Bee reported.
The fire is centered in the Feather River Canyon off Highway 70 about five miles east of the town of Paradise which has a population of near 26,000 people. "Those reports have not yet been verified", Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea told a news conference.
This photo taken from video provided by CBS2/KCAL9 shows a wildfire burning in Camarillo.
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.
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A hospital and several schools were evacuated as thick grey smoke and ash filled the sky above Paradise and could be seen from miles away.
She and her husband "knocked on doors, yelled and screamed" to alert as numerous residents of 53 mobile homes and recreational vehicles as possible, Bernacett said. Emergency crews were working to help people evacuate there, he said.
One Paradise resident who fled the encroaching blaze told the Bee: "It was so hot".
"The whole hill's on fire", she said while crying.
"Every engine that we could put on the fire is on the fire right now, and more are coming", he said.
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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.
"Basically, we haven't had rain since last May or before that", said Read, the fire chief.
Driven by strong winds and dry conditions, the blaze dubbed the Camp Fire swept through the town of Paradise, burning part of the local hospital and possibly destroying over a thousand homes and other structures, county and city officials said.
Hospital spokeswoman Jill Kinney said all patients were evacuated.
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