'Volatile,' 'incredibly dangerous': Images of raging flames as California wildfires burn

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Mandatory evacuations were in effect early Friday, and 30,000 homes were under threat from the blaze.

The previous record had been set less than a year before in another catastrophic fire that burned through more than 280,000 acres in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. "It's really dry and we have low humidity, and unfortunately those are great conditions for a fire to spread". "We had to ride through flames to get here", he said from the side of a road west of Paradise.

Authorities fear the fire, fueled by winds, would reach the city of Chico - a city of 90,000 people where many Butte County families already have evacuated to shelters.

"Had he not put out that fire, I would not have made it to the auto", she said.

Cal Fire tweeted that the fire was "very dangerous" and urged people to follow evacuation orders. At one point, the unrelenting flames burned about 2,000 acres per hour taking down everything - big box stores, homes, and businesses - in its path.

A California fire official says he has reports of several hundred structures that have been destroyed in a Northern California town ravaged by a wildfire, but officials say they won't have an exact count until they can get into the area.

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.

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District also issued a warning Thursday afternoon, notifying residents of air quality impacts in the Bay Area due to the smoke drifting south from the Camp Fire. By nightfall, it had consumed more than 28 square miles and was raging out of control. State fire authorities said they could not confirm the reports.

'It's a very unsafe and very serious situation, ' Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea told The Associated Press. "The south side as well as the north side has been hit very hard as well". The message I want to get out is: "If you can evacuate, you need to evacuate", Honea said.

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Four hospital employees were briefly trapped in the basement and rescued by California Highway Patrol officers, Kinney said. The fire forced the evacuation of patients from Paradise's main hospital to hospitals in Oroville and Chico.

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The fire and evacuations led to gridlock traffic in Paradise, and multiple drivers abandoned their vehicles, Sacramento Bee reported.

Flames were engulfing homes, utility poles were crashing down and things were exploding, she said. "People started getting out of their vehicles and running".

East of Chico on Picholine Way, a line of cars crowded roads as people evacuated from that area around 9 p.m.

Cars and trucks, some with trailers attached, were left on the roadside as evacuees ran for their lives, said Bass.

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

"When this fire started this morning wind speeds were 35 to 40 miles per hour gusts", Cal Fire spokesperson Lynne Tolmachoff said.

A statue sits on the deck of a burning home as the Camp Fire moves through the area on November 8, 2018 in Paradise, California.

Medical personnel evacuate patients as the Feather River Hospital burns while the Camp Fire rages through Paradise, Calif., today.

Four hospital employees were briefly trapped in the basement and rescued by California Highway Patrol officers, Kinney said. Rescuers were trying to put them in other vehicles, he said.

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