Entire California Town Destroyed; Tens of Thousands Flee in Los Angeles, Ventura Counties

Entire California Town Destroyed; Tens of Thousands Flee in Los Angeles, Ventura Counties

Homes destroyed as thousands flee from Butte County wildfire

Nicole Kowalczyke of Chico stepped outside to look at smoke from the Camp Fire Thursday morning, and a singed piece of paper fell from the sky.

Nicole Kowalczyke of Chico stepped outside to look at smoke from the Camp Fire Thursday morning, and a singed piece of paper fell from the sky.

The blaze erupted as windy weather swept the state, creating extreme fire danger. A wind-whipped fire north of Los Angeles in Ventura County burned up to 15 square miles and at least one home in a matter of hours. It threatened thousands of homes and prompted evacuations of a mobile home park, a state university campus and some neighborhoods. A nearby blaze was smaller at about 2 square miles but moving quickly.

Smoke blankets the air over the California State University, Chico, which is 15 miles from the Camp Fire burning near Paradise, Calif. on Nov. 8, 2018.

McLean estimated that a couple of thousand structures were destroyed in the town of 27,000 residents about 180 miles (290 kilometers) northeast of San Francisco, where residents scrambled to flee. The extent of the injuries and specific damage count was not immediately known as officials could not access the dangerous area.

Video: Wildfire evacuee: Our town is flattened

Smoke blankets the air over the California State University, Chico, which is 15 miles from the Camp Fire burning near Paradise, Calif. on Nov. 8, 2018.

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.

Crews struggle to contain the fast-moving Camp Fire as it burns off of Pentz Road in Paradise (Butte County).

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.

Patients Rescued From Burning Hospital In Butte County

Crews struggle to contain the fast-moving Camp Fire as it burns off of Pentz Road in Paradise (Butte County).

“My husband tried his best to get everybody out. The whole hills on fire. God help us!” she said before breaking down crying. She and her husband grabbed their dog, jumped in their pickup truck and drove through flames before getting to safety, she said.

Video: Very dangerous northern California wildfire blankets sky in thick, black smoke

VIDEO: Firenado whips around Camp Fire in Butte County

Authorities yell to drivers to evacuate the area off of Pentz Road in Paradise (Butte County) during the Camp Fire.

Video: 27000 People Told To Evacuate California Town Of Paradise Due To Impending Wildfire | TIME

Hospital Destroyed; Unconfirmed Reports of Fatalities in Rapidly-Moving Wildfire

Authorities yell to drivers to evacuate the area off of Pentz Road in Paradise (Butte County) during the Camp Fire.

Acting California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency for the fire-stricken area in Northern California and requested a presidential disaster declaration, saying that dangerous weather conditions were expected to last several days.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints burns during Camp Fire in Paradise, Calif.. on Thursday, November 8, 2018.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints burns during Camp Fire in Paradise, Calif.. on Thursday, November 8, 2018.

A hotshot firefighter watches as the Camp Fire burns off of Pentz Road in Paradise, California, on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018.

Impenetrable Smoke, Embers From Camp Fire Adding To Chaos As California Town Burns

A hotshot firefighter watches as the Camp Fire burns off of Pentz Road in Paradise, California, on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018.

“Pretty much the community of Paradise is destroyed, its that kind of devastation,” said Cal Fire Capt. Scott McLean late Thursday. “The wind that was predicted came and just wiped it out.”

A firefighter works to save a house off of Pentz Road during the Camp Fire in Paradise, California, on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018.

“Every engine that we could put on the fire is on the fire right now, and more are coming,” he said. “There are dozens of strike teams that were bringing in from all parts of the state.”

A firefighter works to save a house off of Pentz Road during the Camp Fire in Paradise, California, on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018.

Butte County Supervisor Doug Teeter said he was on a bulldozer that pushed cars out of the way Thursday to get to the Adventist Health Feather River Hospital in the town of Paradise. When he arrived there, patients were out in the front of the emergency room, where the roof had caught fire.

Inmate firefighters dig a trench to try and save a house off of Pentz Road during the Camp Fire in Paradise, California, on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018.

PARADISE, Butte County (CBS SF) — Officials are describing a harrowing effort to rescue patients from a burning hospital in a Northern California town ravaged by wildfire.

Inmate firefighters dig a trench to try and save a house off of Pentz Road during the Camp Fire in Paradise, California, on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018.

Hospital spokeswoman Jill Kinney said all patients were evacuated. Chico-based Action News Now reported the hospital was eventually destroyed by the fire.

A line of cars evacuate on Hwy. 191 during Camp Fire in Paradise, Calif.. on Thursday, November 8, 2018.

Paradise, a town of about 27,000 people is 180 miles northeast of San Francisco. All of the towns residents were being evacuated from the Camp Fire.

A line of cars evacuate on Hwy. 191 during Camp Fire in Paradise, Calif.. on Thursday, November 8, 2018.

He said sheriff’s deputies helped patients evacuate. Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said some people at the hospital were trapped in a tunnel.

Evacuees Heidi Bigelow (right) and daughter Marina Joy Bigelow, 18 (left) who fled their home in Paradise, take a moment with each other at the Red Cross shelter in Chico, California, on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018.

Evacuees Heidi Bigelow (right) and daughter Marina Joy Bigelow, 18 (left) who fled their home in Paradise, take a moment with each other at the Red Cross shelter in Chico, California, on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018.

Cars escape the Camp Fire as they drive south on Pentz Road in Paradise, California, on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018.

As deputies worked to issue evacuation orders, they reportedly received 1,038 individual 911 calls related to the fire. Hundreds were from people reporting that they could not get away or had loved ones that they could not reach. Honea said that deputies had addressed roughly 200 of those calls — with 400 remaining unresolved.

Cars escape the Camp Fire as they drive south on Pentz Road in Paradise, California, on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018.

Smoke Visible in Mendocino County Confirmed as Drift Smoke from Camp Fire in Butte County

(l-r) Evacuees Joanne Hansen and granddaugter Annalyce Johnson, 9, sit outside of the Red Cross shelter after evacuating their home in Paradise area in Chico, California, on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018. They planned to sleep in their car for the night.

Additionally, Butte Colleges main campus in Oroville is closed Nov. 8 and 9. Classes schedule tonight at the Chico Center, Skyway Center and Cosmetology Center are cancelled Nov. 8 and 9. The Glenn Center will remain open. The Colleges main campus is being used as a staging area for Cal Fire.

(l-r) Evacuees Joanne Hansen and granddaugter Annalyce Johnson, 9, sit outside of the Red Cross shelter after evacuating their home in Paradise area in Chico, California, on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018. They planned

Evacuee Marvis (center) takes a moment as she listens to her son Jason (right) at the Red Cross shelter in Chico, California, on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018.

Evacuee Marvis (center) takes a moment as she listens to her son Jason (right) at the Red Cross shelter in Chico, California, on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018.

Evacuee John J. Underhill rests at the Red Cross shelter in Chico, California, on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018.

Sheriff Honea described working within the town of Paradise that morning as the fire quickly spread toward the town, with heavy black smoke filling the air like a solid wall. “Although it was early morning, it seemed like midnight,” Honea said.

Evacuee John J. Underhill rests at the Red Cross shelter in Chico, California, on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018.

Evacuation order remain in effect for the communities of Magalia, Paradise, Butte Creek Canyon, Concow, Polga, Yankee Hill, Jarbo Gap and a number of surrounding areas. As is often the case, some people refused to heed the initial evacuation orders.

PARADISE, Butte County — More than 30,000 people fled for their lives Thursday as a late-season wildfire swept across this town in the Sierra foothills, incinerating numerous homes and businesses and prompting desperate rescues of residents trapped inside buildings and on clogged evacuation routes.

The blaze exploded to more than 20,000 acres, adding to a catastrophic two years of wildfires in California that have raised new questions about how the state will cope with a warmer and drier climate.

The fire has grown so quickly that details remain sparse at this time. Authorities had prioritized the evacuation of Feather River Hospital in Paradise — presumably because the hospital lay directly in the fires path.

Smoke turned the daytime sky black in Paradise, a community of 27,000 that sits 15 miles east of Chico and 80 miles north of Sacramento. Authorities raced to evacuate a hospital while calling in hundreds of crews from across the region to attack the flames from the ground and by air.

“Its a very dangerous and very serious situation,” Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea told The Associated Press. “Im driving through fire as we speak. Were doing everything we can to get people out of the affected areas.”

“There’s pretty much complete devastation in that community — entire streets where houses are wiped out,” said Lynne Tolmachoff, spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. “It’s not looking very good at all.”

“We have been informed of a possibility of the loss of power at Little Chico Creek Elementary School. As a result, we are allowing parents at Little Chico Creek to pick up their students if they feel that is in the best interest of their family. However, roads are very crowded and it may be difficult to get to the school. Please note that Little Chico Creek will remain open unless requested by emergency services to close.

Video clips from Camp Fire, wildfire growing rapidly in Butte County, California on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018. Thousands of people were ordered to evacuate several Sierra foothills towns near Chico as a wildfire raged out of control.

Schools in Paradise have all been closed. Schools in Chico are not closed, as of 11:45 a.m.  However schools in East Chico are difficult to get to because roads are being used as evacuation routes to get Paradise residents to safety.

Ash falls as sun sets on raging wildfire in Butte County

As of Thursday evening, the Camp Fire had no containment, and 15,000 structures were threatened. The flames moved within 2 miles of Chico city limits, and around 9 p.m., residents in the southern part of the city were advised to evacuate.

“Chico Unified continues to work closely with emergency officials regarding the Camp Fire. So far, Chico has not been directly impacted.

The Camp Fire burns in Paradise on Nov. 8, 2018.”,”kind”:”MANUAL”}; HDN.jwplayers[player-94615].mute = true; HDN.jwplayers[player-94615].startenabled = true; HDN.jwplayers[player-94615].useRelatedVideo = true; HDN.jwplayers[player-94615].isAutomatched = false; HDN.jwplayers[player-94615].useFloatPlayer = true; Now Playing: Now Playing A fire crew keeps an eye on the Camp Fire Media: San Francisco Chronicle The Camp Fire burns in a Paradise neighborhood Media: Gabrielle Lurie A home in Paradise burns during the Camp Fire Media: Gabrielle Lurie fire1109_video4 Media: Gabrielle Lurie The Camp Fire burns in Paradise on Nov. 8, 2018.

CHICO — Schools in Paradise and Chico are being impacted by Camp Fire burning in the Paradise area.

High winds were hampering air tankers’ efforts to extinguish the flames, said Cal Fire spokesman Scott McLean. Similar winds were expected to continue through the night. Red-flag conditions were in place until at least 10 a.m. Friday.

The Camp Fire is one of several blazes that have ignited around the state amid dry and gusty conditions. As of Thursday night, the Hill Fire in Ventura County had burned 10,000 acres and the Nurse Fire in Solano County had burned 2,500 acres. “Extreme fire danger conditions” spurred the National Weather Service in Monterey to issue a red flag warning for elevations above 1,000 feet in the Santa Cruz Mountains as well as the North Bay and East Bay hills through at least Friday morning.

Fire officials said they had received reports of some deaths from the blaze. At least two firefighters were injured. Several hundred homes, and perhaps more than 1,000, had burned.

“We were engulfed in flames,” said Butte County Supervisor Doug Teeter. “I don’t know what we are coming back to after this. Probably a moonscape. As we drove out, homes were burnt to the ground.”

Medical personnel evacuate patients as the Feather River Hospital burns while the Camp Fire rages through Paradise, Calif., on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018. 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. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

Among the structures lost to the flames were a McDonald’s, a Mormon church, a Black Bear Diner and Paradise’s wood welcome sign. Streams of residents hurried out of town, inching along the few available routes.

She was at the church later that night, feeling stressed and overwhelmed. She wasn’t sure what the future will hold. Her rental home was government subsidized — Section 8 — and shes not sure how she will secure another one nearby. She said she thinks her home burned, and her cat ran away, scared off by the chaos, as she was trying to leave.

Family members and friends searched for scores of missing people. They inundated 911 with hundreds of requests for help tracking down people who were feared trapped behind fire lines. They flooded Twitter too, posting names and photos of loved ones, along with the addresses where they’d last been seen.

Alec Leeds-Grant, visiting from New York, takes a photo atop Grizzly Peak Boulevard in Berkeley, Calif., as smoke from Butte County's Camp Fire wildfire drifts into the Bay Area on Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2018. The Bay Area Air Quality Management District issued a smoke advisory that will remain in effect at least through Friday.(Doug Duran/Bay Area News Group)

The cause of the fire, which ignited at 6:30 a.m., was under investigation. Authorities released no immediate information about the extent of the damage and the toll of injuries. The inferno was so huge that dense smoke clogged skies throughout the Bay Area — roughly 200 miles southwest of the blaze — and residents across Northern California were warned to expect poor air quality through Friday.

A home burns as the Camp Fire rages through Paradise, Calif., on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018. 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.(AP Photo/Noah Berger)

Evacuation efforts were “difficult, to say the least,” said Lt. Al Smith of the Butte County Sheriff’s Office, noting that several deputies who ventured into evacuation zones to rescue residents also became trapped by flames burning around them. “I can’t think of an area that’s safe right now.”

GRIDLEY, CALIFORNIA – NOVEMBER 8: Caroline Bolin pauses as she talks about the "worst fire she ever seen in her life" she said, "I felt very scared," at an evacuation center for residents displaced by the Camp Fire at Butte County Fairgrounds in Gridley, Calif., on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group)

Viewer video offers harrowing glimpse of Camp Fire in Butte County

The blaze, named the Camp Fire because of its proximity to Camp Creek Road near Highway 70 in the Feather River Canyon, was scorching several areas within Paradise, which is home to many retirees. Acting Gov. Gavin Newsom, filling in while Gov. Jerry Brown traveled out of state, declared a state of emergency in Butte County.

The view of Oakland, Calif., photographed from atop Grizzly Peak Boulevard, as smoke from Butte County's Camp Fire wildfire drifts into the Bay Area on Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2018. The Bay Area Air Quality Management District issued a smoke advisory that will remain in effect at least through Friday.(Doug Duran/Bay Area News Group)

The Butte County towns of Paradise, Pulga and Concow were evacuated shortly after the fire started. Cal Fire officials said residents of Magalia, Butte Creek Canyon and Butte Valley had also been ordered to leave.

Social media posts capture intensity and speed of Camp Fire as it exploded

Pacific Gas and Electric Co. reported that 34,280 customers in Butte County and neighboring Plumas County had lost power.

The Camp Fire rages through Paradise, Calif., on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018. 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. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

California: tens of thousands evacuated as wildfire explodes in size

Firefighters spent the morning trying to evacuate trapped Paradise residents while creating firebreaks within the town and even moving some people to empty parking lots. Engines from the San Francisco and Santa Rosa fire departments and other California agencies were aiding Butte County firefighters.

Butte County Supervisor Doug Teeter was on a bulldozer that cleared a path to the Adventist Health Feather River Hospital in Paradise. He arrived to find patients were out in the front of the emergency room, where the roof had caught fire. All patients were evacuated, according to hospital spokeswoman Jill Kinney.

The Paradise Unified School District and Butte College closed their doors Thursday morning under evacuation orders from fire officials. The Paradise schools superintendent said she had seen photos of several schools burning.

OAKLAND, CA – NOVEMBER 08: Smoke from Butte County's Camp Fire is seen in this view looking west from the hills as the sun begins to set in Oakland, Calif., on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018. The Bay Area Air Quality Management District issued an air quality advisory due to the smoke. (Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group)

Evacuations ordered for east Chico as Camp Fire rages toward city limits

Feather River Hospital in Paradise was evacuated after flames jumped a road leading to the hospital. Fire officials said some people were trapped in a tunnel under the hospital and forced to shelter in place before escaping. The hospital largely survived, but an auxiliary building burned, according to Cal Fire.

“In the past few years, just the way fires have moved, firefighters have had to help with evacuations before they can go back in to put out the fire,” Tolmachoff said.

Butte County officials did not send an Amber Alert-style message to warn people in and around Paradise about the rapidly spreading fire early Thursday, a Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman said. Instead, the department turned to an opt-in program to contact an estimated 23,000 people who had signed up to receive emergency notifications or who had landline telephones.

In October 2017, Sonoma County officials opted not to send out the Amber Alert-style message during the Tubbs Fire, which eventually killed 24 people. That decision was criticized later in a state audit.

In Paradise on Thursday morning, Jennifer Broussard, 41, woke to thunder — or at least that’s what the fire sounded like, she said.

(UPDATING) PARADISE EVACUATED: Fast-Growing Butte County Fire Has Already Burned 17000 Acres

She and her husband, Ryan, 50, left their home in a rush. Both in their pajamas, they had no time to change into anything else. Police were everywhere shouting, “Move! Go! Get out!”

Berkeley Fire Department responds to fires in Oakland, Butte County

She moved from Los Angeles to Paradise 20 years ago, and was surprised upon arriving in town how clear the stars were at night. But in the daytime Thursday, she couldn’t see anything except black smoke obscuring the sun and sky.

“The simple things we take for granted,” Broussard said at an evacuation shelter in Oroville. She tapped ash from her cigarette on the concrete and said, “That is a whole town gone.”

The intensity of the Camp Fire’s surge through Paradise drew immediate comparisons to the Tubbs Fire, which wiped out whole neighborhoods in and around Santa Rosa, and the Carr Fire, which blitzed Redding this year. Gov. Brown and others have raised alarm about the nearly year-round danger in the state, but no broad solutions have surfaced. Twice in the past two years, fires have set the state record for size.

Man Fire Drives Through Camp Fire Flames in Northern California

In the tiny town of Concow, northeast of Paradise, Nate Tockey, 35, got a call from a neighbor at 7 a.m. warning him about the fire. He woke his three children, warned his wife and saw a dark, orange sky when he went to the porch.

His wife, Kat Tockey, 36, left her purse behind, and they didn’t bother to grab their computer or important papers from a filing cabinet. By the time the five of them piled into a car, 50- to 100-foot flames were approaching from three sides. They could feel the heat through the closed windows of their sport utility vehicle.

Raging Wildfire Wiped Out Calif. Community

“At this point I’m pretty sure the house is gone. I’m prepared for the worst,” Nate Tockey said. “We knew we lived in an area of fire danger, but we never knew it would be like that.”

Kat Tockey and the children — 9-month-old and 11-year-old sons and an 8-year-old daughter — were staying at the Neighborhood Church evacuation center in Chico. Pets weren’t allowed, so Nate Tockey said he would sleep in the car with their rottweiler, Tig, and cat, Kitsy.

Kendra Luck evacuated with her father and stepmother a few hours after the fire started. Her stepmother spotted flames shooting up a hillside outside of town around 8 a.m., and the three of them started packing.

An hour later, the smoke was so dense that they turned lights on in the house. The sky was an eerie — but familiar — red glow. Her father and stepmother have lived in the same house in Paradise for 16 years, and this was their third fire evacuation.

“They’re getting used to this,” said Luck, a former Chronicle photographer. “Everything was glowing that fire red. That was enough for them, so we just packed up and left.”

Hundreds of people were unaccounted for Thursday evening after the mad rush to evacuate. Especially worrisome were reports of older people — including some with dementia or mobility problems — who had not checked in with friends or relatives.

How to locate loved ones affected by Camp Fire in Butte County

A 96-year-old woman who slipped into a stranger’s car to flee from her retirement home as it was engulfed early Thursday was among the missing. Marcia Hamilton, who had been living at Feather Canyon Retirement Community for nine years, was evacuated from the senior home around 9:30 a.m., just as walls of fire closed in.

Camp Fire: Hundreds of structures destroyed as fire swells to 20,000 acres | Updates

#CampFire On Skyway in Paradise CA. Two spot fires on skyway as of 20 mins ago #CalFire pic.twitter.com/6HbjUBYbEP

She joined dozens of other residents outside the main entrance waiting for rides out of town, but firefighters, staffers and others were scrambling to find transportation, said Hamilton’s daughter, Lynn Hamilton. Her mother was put in a car with strangers who said they would take her to an evacuation center. But Lynn Hamilton never heard whether they arrived.

She was worried in part because her mother left without medication required for her heart condition and cholesterol, and without her walker or a cell phone.

#campfire from Fair street in Chico. My little heart is breaking for the Ridge. Stay safe Paradise and surrounding communities pic.twitter.com/wCXS7gE9dD

Chronicle staff writers Kimberly Veklerov, Megan Cassidy and Lauren Hernandez contributed to this report.

Kurtis Alexander, Lizzie Johnson, Gwendolyn Wu and Erin Allday are San Francisco Chronicle staff writers. Email: [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected] Twitter: @kurtisalexander, @lizziejohnsonnn, @gwendolynawu, @erinallday


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