(CNN)A series of fast-moving wildfires is racing Friday up and down California, destroying thousands of structures and forcing thousands of residents to evacuate through flame-lined streets.
View this post on Instagram #Malibu #MandatoryEvacuation🔥 “Alert: MANDATORY evacuation in effect for all of City of Malibu,all areas south of 101 Fwy, from Ventura County line to Las Virgenes” #woolseyfire #hillfire #santaanas #extremefiredanger #LAwind #besafe #besmart #beprepared #fire #malibucolony
BAAQMD said while most of the smoke was expected to remain aloft the public would likely see and smell smoke from the quickly-expanding fire. Those susceptible to elevated pollution levels were urged to take precautions to avoid exposure.
View this post on Instagram We have made it out of town but it was a scary AF trip. I cannot believe this new town that I have fallen madly in love with is on fire. There is a beautiful church with a tiny vineyard and I saw the fire creeping close to it. I love this town so much. I havent felt so much at home since I was a kid growing up in Broken Arrow, OK. . #oakpark #thousandoaks #fire
View this post on Instagram The beauty and terror that Mother Nature gives us. Such a heart breaking day with the mass shooting in TO and now a fire with evacuations. Hang in there Ventura County!! ❤️
Wildfire devastates California town of Paradise
CNNs Emanuella Grinberg, Nick Valencia, Judson Jones, Dakin Andone, Tristan Smith, Cheri Mossburg, Amanda Watts, Joe Sutton, Gianluca Mezzofiore, Stella Chan, Amanda Jackson, Christina Zdanowicz and Jennifer Selva contributed to this report.
Fast-moving wildfires prompted tens of thousands of evacuations in both Northern and Southern California, including the entire beachside city of Malibu, sending residents fleeing for their lives on short notice.
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The largest inferno, sparked Thursday morning in Northern California, prompted numerous evacuations, including several entire towns.
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By late Thursday, it became apparent that Paradise, a town of 27,000 people north of Sacremento, had been devastated by the fire.
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"Pretty much the community of Paradise is destroyed, it's that kind of devastation," said Cal Fire Capt. Scott McLean late Thursday. "The wind that was predicted came and just wiped it out."
PARADISE, Calif. (AP) — Tens of thousands of people fled a fast-moving wildfire Thursday in Northern California, some clutching babies and pets as they abandoned vehicles and struck out on foot ahead of the flames that forced the evacuation of an entire town and destroyed hundreds of structures.
At a Thursday evening news conference, Butte County Cal Fire Chief Darren Read said several hundred buildings, possibly as many as 1,000 or more, were destroyed in Paradise, though they won't have a more exact number until they survey the damage. Another 15,000 remained threatened in the area, according to CalFire.
Among them was Kim Curtis, who was searching for her grandmother, who told family at 8 a.m. Thursday that she would flee her Paradise home in her Buick with her cat. Her grandmother, who is in her 70s and lives alone, never showed up up at a meeting spot in Chico, though.
"The whole towns on fire," Paradise councilman Scott Lotter, who evacuated with his family, told the Sacramento Bee earlier Thursday. "Its pretty grim."
Capt. Scott McLean of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said flames from the blaze had reached the eastern side of Chico, a city of more than 90,000 residents.
It's unclear how many casualties there have been as a result of the fire, but CalFire confirmed that three firefighters have been injured.
California has a history of power lines or faulty equipment sometimes sparking wildfires, and a state fire agency recently pinned the blame on PG&E for at least 16 of last years wildfires in Northern California, including some with fatalities.
Officials confirmed to the AP that some Paradise residents who attempted to escape the fire in their vehicles Thursday were forced to flee on foot – some holding pets and even babies in their grasp – as the flames drew closer. With few options out of Paradise, roads quickly became gridlocked, and abandoned cars left in the middle of the road only made problems worse.
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"It is pure chaos up here," CHP public information officer Ryan Lambert told the Los Angeles Times.
“The magnitude of the destruction is heartbreaking,” said Ghilarducci. “We know there have been injuries and that there have been loss of life. Were still accounting for that and working with our local authorities.”
Fueled by dry, windy conditions, the Camp Fire quickly spread to more than 31 square miles within about 12 hours and forced the closure of several roads, according to Cal Fire. The fire is 0 percent contained and it's not yet known what sparked it.
"Right now, Mother Nature is in charge," Cal Fire spokesman Bryce Bennett told the Sacramento Bee.
People with billing addresses in the following zip codes are covered: 95938, 95954, 95965, 95969. AT&T says people may still get alerts about data during the protected dates, but the company will make sure the credits are reflected come billing time.
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Other towns being evacuated include Centerville and Butte Creek, northwest of Paradise. Evacuations were also ordered in the nearby hamlets of Pulga and Concow.
"Its bad," Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea told the Chico Enterprise-Record. "Were trying to get as many people out as quickly as possible and save as many lives as we can."
In Concow, some residents, like Colton Percifield, were forced to drive through the flames and thick smoke just to survive.
"The hardest part was there was no visibility … it was pitch black," he told The Weather Channel in a phone interview Thursday night. He also said many of the homes in his neighborhood were destroyed by the fire, but he was able to safely escape.
Feather River Hospital, a retirement home and Ponderosa Elementary School in Paradise were evacuated, the Enterprise-Record also said, and Butte College was closed.
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Patients in the Feather River Hospital were rescued Thursday afternoon as the roof of the emergency room went ablaze.
The grant, which is provided through the Presidents Disaster Relief Fund, will assist local, state and tribal agencies responding to the fire to apply for 75 percent reimbursement of their eligible fire suppression costs.
The rapid growth of the fire took many residents by surprise. Shary Bernacett said she and her husband "knocked on doors, yelled and screamed" to alert as many of the residents of the mobile home park they manage in Paradise just minutes before the fire arrived, she told the AP.
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"My husband tried his best to get everybody out. The whole hill's on fire. God help us!" Bernacett, in tears, told the AP.
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The Bernacetts managed to escape the fire with their dog but had to drive through 12-foot-high flames before reaching safety on Highway 99.
At least 24,000 homes and businesses, or about half of all customers, remained without power Friday morning in Butte County, according to PowerOutage.us. Those who have safely fled the wildfire were asked to register on the American Red Cross's Safe and Well page to let friends and family know they successfully evacuated.
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Acting governor Gavin Newsom has declared a state of emergency for Butte County, which will make more resources available for emergency responders.
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Much of the Golden State had been warned about extreme fire danger because of the return of Santa Ana winds, but in Butte County, months of dry weather combined with the windy conditions created a recipe for disaster.
"Basically, we haven't had rain since last May or before that," Read told the AP. "Everything is a very receptive fuel bed. It's a rapid rate of spread."
Thursday afternoon, a pair of brush fires were sparked in Ventura County, threatening homes and businesses in the Newbury Park area. The largest, named the Hill Fire, exploded in size and burned at least 12.5 square miles in the first two hours, Cal Fire said. By Friday morning, it had grown to 15 square miles.
The blaze came down the hills and jumped the 101 Freeway, prompting officials to issue mandatory evacuations for the Cal State University Channel Islands campus. Before that, evacuations were ordered for the Camarillo Springs area after the fire was sparked at about 2 p.m. local time, according to the L.A. Times.
Local news helicopters broadcast visuals of structures being burned by the fire late Thursday afternoon.
The fire originated Thursday afternoon near the Santa Rosa Valley, about 10 miles northwest of Thousand Oaks.
The other fire burning in Ventura County, named the Woolsey Fire, was sparked at Woolsey Canyon and tore into the community of Oak Park early Friday, burning homes and forcing residents to flee, fire officials said.
Friday morning, authorities ordered a mandatory evacuation of the entire beachside city of Malibu, which lies along 21 miles of coastline and is home to 13,000.
Fueled by dry conditions and strong Santa Ana winds, the blaze has burned at least 12.5 square miles and is 0 percent contained, the Ventura Fire Department reported Friday morning. Approximately 75,000 homes are under mandatory or voluntary evacuation orders in Ventura and Los Angeles counties.
Early Friday, the Ventura County Fire Department tweeted that the fire had jumped the 101 Freeway at Chesebro Road.
The blaze moved into Los Angeles County late Thursday, prompting new evacuation orders in Westlake Village, areas of Calabasas and Cheeseboro Canyon.
It is critical that residents pay close attention to evacuation orders. This is a very dangerous wind-driven fire, the L.A. County Fire Department said in a tweet.
So far, the blaze has damaged or destroyed 20 homes and threatens another 30,000, the Los Angeles Times reports.