The fire broke out near Thousand Oaks, an area about 64km north-west of downtown Los Angeles where an attacker killed 12 people on Wednesday, prompting the evacuation of 75,000 homes.
Korey Honea, the sheriff of Butte County, said five died in or near their vehicles as they fled the town of Paradise, in the Sierra Nevada foothills, 90 miles north of Sacramento.
The town of Chico, population 93,000, could be next in the path of the wildfire, which was forecast to be driven westward overnight by 35-mile-per hour (56 km-per-hour) winds, said Butte County Fire Chief Darren Read. The fire was first reported around 6:30 a.m., and over just a few hours, the fire grew from 10 acres to more than 10,000.
Seventy-five percent of Thousand Oaks residents have evacuated from the city, which is still reeling from the shooting massacre, Fox 11 Los Angeles reported.
About 2,000 structures were destroyed in the area, officials said.
The Ventura County Fire Department said the blaze had burned around 8,000 acres and evacuation orders were issued for some 88,000 homes in Ventura County and neighbouring Los Angeles County.
U.S. media reports that schools have also been closed and evacuated due to the fire, and animals have been moved out of the LA Zoo in Griffith Park. Firefighters were able to stop the fire at the edge of the city, where evacuation orders remained in place Friday, Cal Fire Cpt.
"I heard the flames have hit our property at our home in Hidden Hills but now are more contained and have stopped at the moment".
Cal Fire said three firefighters have been injured.
Evacuations are now under way, with tens of thousands of people having already been forced to flee their homes, and hot and dry weather conditions are exacerbating the problem.
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"Fire is burning out of control, heading into populated areas of Malibu".
Captain Scott McLean, of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, also said there was "really no firefight involved", explaining the crews had to give up attacking the flames and turn their attention to helping people get out alive.
"It's a very unsafe and very serious situation", Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said. Firefighters from Lehi, Bluffdale, Cedar City and Draper are also going, UFA spokesman Keith Garner said.
Numerous dead are people who were in their cars attempting to flee the racing flames. The Woolsey Fire is burning in both Los Angeles and Ventura Counties in California, and has scorched 14,000 acres.
"We have five confirmed", the official said on Friday when asked about the number of fatalities related to the wildfires.
Cathy Fallon wipes her face beside her son Gabriel Fallon as she stands near the charred remains of her home Friday, Nov. 9, 2018, in Paradise, California.
About 20 of the same deputies who were helping to find and rescue people lost their own homes. We haven't been told to evacuate just yet but Willow is nervous so she made me go outside and look make a daddy assessment.
Other were found in or near homes.
Among those forced to flee were celebrities including Lady Gaga and Kim Kardashian, who said on Twitter that flames had damaged the home she shares in nearby Calabasas with Kanye West.
It easily jumped eight-lane Highway 101 and rambled over the Santa Monica Mountains to posh Malibu, where it torched homes and cars.