Deaths feared as wildfire engulfs North California town

Camp Fire Smoke Smoke from the Camp Fire

Camp Fire Smoke Smoke from the Camp Fire

"This fire is very unsafe, please evacuate if asked to do so!" the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) tweeted.

"The blaze is being driven by fairly strong winds", Carhart said.

Smoke from the wind-driven fire, which started Thursday morning, can be seen from as far away as 150 miles.

Residents of Butte County ― and particularly Paradise, California, and its surrounding towns ― have been ordered to evacuate and take shelter in local churches in the neighboring town of Chico. Emergency crews were working to help people evacuate there, he said.

Shari Bernacett said her husband tried to get people to leave the Paradise mobile home park they manage and had minutes to evacuate. By Thursday afternoon, the fire was growing at the rate of about one football field every three seconds, assisted by dry conditions and wind gusts of up to 65 miles per hour. She said a group of 20 other patients were initially evacuated but then returned to the facility because of gridlocked traffic.

"The whole hill's on fire", she said while crying. Fire officials said some structures have been destroyed in addition to injuries.

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Another witness said he saw a security guard being shot as well as a female cashier, before he also fled. Authorities have urged the public to avoid the area and that roads are being blocked.

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"It's very chaotic. It's a very bad fire", Officer Ryan Lambert of the California Highway Patrol said of the evacuation.

She and her husband grabbed their dog, jumped in their pickup truck and drove through flames before getting to safety on Highway 99, she said.

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.

One Paradise resident who fled the encroaching blaze told the Bee: "It was so hot". 'There are dozens of strike teams that we're bringing in from all parts of the state'.

Fire officials said the flames were being fueled by winds, low humidity, dry air and severely parched brush and ground from months without rain.

The Adventist Health Feather River Hospital in Paradise evacuated all its patients and staff, given its close proximity to the fire, and transported them safely to hospitals in neighboring towns, said Jill Kinney, an Adventist Health spokeswoman.

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