Homes, hospital burn as thousands flee California wildfire

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A wildfire is hopscotching across a northern California county at a rate of roughly 80 football fields per minute, forcing evacuations, injuring residents and sending families racing from their homes.

"It's a very risky and very serious situation", Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said.

"We had to drive through flames to make it out safely", she said.

"We're trying to get as many people out as quickly as possible and save as many lives as we can", he said.

He confirmed reports that evacuees had to abandon their vehicles as they fled the scene. "People started getting out of their vehicles and running". It's very surreal. Things always work out, but the unknown is a little scary.

Evacuations were also directed for all of Paradise, which is home to almost 27,000 residents, and nearby Pulga due to the Camp Fire, according to news reports. The Butte County Sheriff's Office has issued mandatory evacuation orders for most residents of Paradise and the smaller communities of Concow and Pulga.

The wildfire was reported at 6:30 a.m., Rick Carhart, a Cal Fire spokesman, said.

Officials said the blaze has consumed more than 26 square miles so far.

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The town of Chico, population 93,000, was potentially threatened as 35-mile-per hour (56 kph) winds drove the blaze westward, he added.

The dry heat and limited rainfall - in some places, no rainfall at all - contributed to the fire's spread.

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Thick gray smoke and ash filled the sky above Paradise and could be seen from miles away.

The fire forced the evacuation of patients from Paradise's main hospital to hospitals in Oroville and Chico. It's the second time Hall has fled a California fire, she said.

A local fire official said there were multiple injuries among civilians and firefighters. A fire had broken out in her yard, blocking the path to her vehicle.

Google Maps continues to update its 2018 California fire map on the various blazes, as well as a Google Crisis Map with information about specific California wildfires including the Camp Fire.

Evacuated hospital patients are being taken to hospitals throughout the region.

Four hospital employees were briefly trapped in the basement and rescued by California Highway Patrol officers, Kinney said.

She and her husband "knocked on doors, yelled and screamed" to alert as numerous residents of 53 mobile homes and recreational vehicles as possible, Bernacett said.

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