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PARADISE EVACUATED: Fast-Growing Butte County Fire Has Already Burned 5000 Acres

PARADISE EVACUATED: Fast-Growing Butte County Fire Has Already Burned 5000 Acres

Fanned by strong winds, the fire broke out around dawn and spread quickly, leaving the town of Paradise, population 26,000, choking on floating ash and thick smoke.

People were forced to abandon their cars and run, carrying their children and possessions, and those who had fled reported seeing houses explode as they were engulfed in flames.

McLean estimated that a couple of thousand structures were destroyed in the town of 27,000 residents about 300 kilometres northeast of San Francisco, was ordered to get out.

"We had to drive through flames to make it out safely", she said.

Drought-stricken fuels, Santa Ana wind conditions, low relative humidity, high temperatures: "it's a recipe for fire", said Ventura County Fire Department Assistant Chief Chad Cook.

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. "By the time we got out, the flames were a half mile away from the school. That's when I chose to get out".

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Officials also issued an evacuation for part of Highway 70 nearby the fire and identified evacuation shelters to which people could flee.

"Luckily, the fire broke out early enough that there were only a few students there and we had a plan".

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. Fire officials said it could take days to figure out how many people died.

One woman, Kim Curtis, said she was searching for her grandmother, a woman in her 70s who had said she was fleeing with her cat but had failed to turn up at an arranged meeting point and was not contactable. "And just praying for a miracle, honestly", Ms Curtis said.

"I'm on the phone crying, talking to my husband, just hoping I can get out of there", she said.

'My husband tried his best to get everybody out.

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In addition to the Woolsey Fire, the Hill Fire was burning northwest of Thousand Oaks in the Santa Rosa Valley.

"We're talking devastated", McLean said.

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

"We're getting them on other vehicles with room". But the main facility, Adventist Health Feather River Hospital, was not, spokeswoman Jill Kinney said.

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

The challenging fire conditions are expected to continue Friday in Southern California where wind alerts and red flag warnings have been issued and wind gusts could reach 70 miles per hour and relative humidity could be as low as 2 percent.

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