'Whole town is burning': Residents flee Northern California wildfire

Blanche Robertson
November 9, 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.

The Camp Fire, which started early on Thursday near Camp Creek, has been fuelled by strong winds and dry forest.

So far there have been no reported deaths due to the blaze.

On Thursday afternoon, California fire officials say the fire had expanded to about 18,000 acres, but its true size is hard to pinpoint because of heavy smoke, which can be seen from miles away.

The sheriff confirmed reports that evacuees had to abandon their vehicles.

"This Fire is very unsafe, please evacuate if asked to do so!" the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) tweeted. She said she did not know the exact number of people evacuated.

At least one nursing home and hospital were evacuated and several homes were on fire, according to the Sacramento Bee, and the region is covered with thick, dark smoke.

The Camp Fire started Thursday morning near Paradise, a town of around 27,000 some 90 miles north of Sacramento.

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"The whole town is burning", Bob Van Camp, a resident who escaped on his motorbike, told local TV channel Action News Now. "You could feel it".

The Chico Enterprise-Record reports that a retirement home and Ponderosa Elementary School were also evacuated.

The fire is the latest in a string of disastrous wildfires that have burned in California over the past year.

Red Flag Warnings are issued for conditions that could lead to "extreme fire behavior" within 24 hours, according to CAL FIRE.

A smoke advisory has also been issued for the San Francisco area through Friday. More evacuations are expected.

Shary Bernacett says she and her husband tried to get people to leave the mobile home park they manage in Paradise, California, with just minutes to evacuate as a wildfire approached the east side of town.

Freeman says her friend described being surrounded by explosions in the parking lot and soon being unable to see the fire because of all the smoke. The Mendocino Complex Fire, which was finally contained in August at more than 410,000 acres, ended up being the largest complex fire in recorded California history.

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