Tens of Thousands Evacuate as Wildfires Char California Towns

California wildfire leaves town in ruins, thousands flee

The Camp Fire in Northern California has destroyed 6,500 homes, while two people were killed by the Woolsey Fire in the south of the state where homes were under evacuation orders, including the entire city of Malibu, home to Hollywood stars. The Butte County Sheriff's Office confirmed Friday at least five people have died.

The other nine deaths were in Paradise, a town of 27,000 in northern California, which was destroyed by fire. Roads are littered with hastily abandoned cars and surrounded by burned out forests. In the video posted to Facebook, two people are seen in a vehicle trying to escape a barrage of flames licking the road. The state's most destructive fire in at least a century has burned down more than 6,700 buildings, nearly all of them homes.

Some 2,000 fire personnel are assigned to Woolsey Fire, and another 900 to the Hill Fire in the Camarillo area, which charred 4,531 acres and was at 25-percent containment.

Five people were discovered dead in or near burned-out cars, while another 35 people have been reported missing.

Blome drove through the town with a man named Fred, crying, pointing out Sam's Liquor, Safeway, McDonald's, the church, the tire shop, the vehicle wash, apartments, her doctor's office, the bowling alley, a hotel, the veterinarian - all of which had gone up in flames.

"The town is devastated, everything is destroyed", said California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) spokesman Scott Maclean, referring to Paradise, which has a population of 26,000. As the fire unfolded throughout the day, reports on the police scanner recounted scenes of unspeakable terror.

Evacuations were ordered for the east side of the neighboring town of Chico, a city of about 93,000 people, as flames from the blaze were being driven by 56 kph winds.

No houses or businesses have been lost in the fast-moving blaze, but a number of RVs and outbuildings have been burned, and a firefighter suffered a minor injury, authorities said.

At least one family was grieving both tragedies, losing a loved one in the shooting and being forced to evacuate because of the fire all within 24 hours, according to the Los Angeles Times.

When the order came to evacuate, it was like the entire town of 27,000 residents chose to leave at once, they said.

The region has grappled with serious wildfires in recent years, including the worst in the state's history - the Mendocino fire in 2018. "I had just one hour to pack up and evacuate our home", Kim Kardashian wrote in an Instagram Story.

The fire rapidly climbed into the Santa Monica Mountains and raced toward the coast.

Benedict said the sheriff's department is utilizing more than 200 deputies to secure property.

California Acting Governor Gavin Newsom on Friday declared a state of emergency for areas affected by the Woolsey and Hill fires in Ventura and Los Angeles counties.

Firefighters worked to protect thousands of students and staff sheltering in place Saturday at Pepperdine University as flames started reaching the campus overnight, school officials said.

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