Tens of Thousands Evacuate as Wildfires Char California Towns

Evacuations ordered in Northern California as fast-moving wildfire spreads

A fast-moving wildfire roared through a Northern California town on Thursday, with reports of fatalities as it burned hundreds of homes and sent tens of thousands of people fleeing 50-foot-high (15.25-metres-high) flames, authorities and a Reuters witness said.

The Butte County Sheriff's office confirmed that five people were killed trying to escape the blaze in their vehicles.

Five people of the dead were found in cars in a town that was destroyed by the Camp Fire in the state's north.

"It was the event we have feared for a long time", Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said at a Friday evening press conference.

Authorities in Northern California have ordered mandatory evacuations in a rural area where the wildfire has grown to 1,000 acres (405 hectares) amid hot and windy weather.

Fanned by strong winds, it has scorched 70,000 acres (28,300 hectares) and has not been contained, the California Fire Department (Cal Fire) said.

The erupted Thursday near the northwest corner of the city of Los Angeles as the region's notorious Santa Ana winds gusted, triggering overnight evacuations of an estimated 75,000 homes in western Los Angeles County and eastern Ventura County.

After flames ripped through the town Thursday, Paradise (population 27,000) has been declared nearly a complete loss.

"It's a very risky and very serious situation", Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea told The Associated Press. Firefighters were able to stop the flames at the edge of the city, where evacuation orders remained in place Friday, said Cal Fire Cpt.

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"There's nothing left standing", said Scott Maclean, the state's forestry and fire protection spokesman.

There has been much damage from the fire, especially in Paradise, but the blaze is so severe firefighters aren't even able to gauge just how bad the destruction is. In Southern California, fire burning through wind-whipped palm trees on Thursday resembled a hurricane.

The resort is one of the most in-demand locations in California for Hollywood stars seeking privacy and luxury, and has been home to Leonardo DiCaprio, Jack Nicholson, Jennifer Aniston, Halle Berry, Charlize Theron, Brad Pitt and a host of other celebrities.

Adding to the complexity of the disaster is tonight the district's youth convention is being held at Trinity Life Center in Sacramento - a destination city for numerous thousands evacuating fire-threatened communities. "I pray everyone is safe", she said.

Actress Alyssa Milano, one of Kardashian's neighbors in Calabasas, wrote on Twitter that she was also evacuated.

Rescuers used a bulldozer to push abandoned cars out of the way in order to reach a hospital and evacuate patients as the fire engulfed the building, Butte County Supervisor Doug Teeter said.

Her husband, the rapper Kanye West, said their family was "safe and close".

Concerns about the SSFL site spread quickly around social media as people in the area saw burn maps that showed flames passing the facility and users shared a Forbes article with the headline "California's Woolsey Fire Now Threatening Malibu Went Through the Site of a Nuclear Accident First"-which states in the body of the story that the concerns about radioactive ash were unsubstantiated".

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