Deadly California wildfire causes "utter panic" as people try to escape

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Nine people have been found dead, some inside their cars and others outside vehicles or homes after a desperate evacuation that Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea called "the worst-case scenario".

A fire official told The Associated Press on Friday that Paradise, 90 miles north of Sacramento, was " pretty much" destroyed.

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

"By the end of the day, I expect to be standing on the beach, shooting a fire burning to the Pacific Ocean", Stuart Palley, a wildfire photographer who has spent the past five years shooting wildfires in California, told me over the phone Friday morning. Around 30,000 customers are without power as a result of the fire.

Laura Anthony witnessed the fire whirl, a whirlwind caused by fire and consisting of flame or ash, on the outskirts of Paradise on Thursday.

The fire, as officials expected, continued to spread to nearby towns, including the city of Chico.

A trio of rapidly expanding wildfires are burning in California, marking the latest in a string of harrowing climate-related disasters in America.

'It was just a wall of fire on each side of us, and we could hardly see the road in front of us'. Evidently the evacuation was not completely successful as reports state at least five people were killed by the flames while trying to evacuate the city in their vehicles.

As she fled, Gina Oviedo described a devastating scene in which flames engulfed homes, sparked explosions and toppled utility poles.

"Things started exploding", Oviedo said. Many abandoned their vehicles to flee on foot as the flames bore down on all sides.

Authorities were working on a plan to remove patients from a hospital after rescuers had to turn back because of gridlocked traffic.

Maclean said an as yet unspecified number of civilians and firefighters had been injured, and that it could be days before authorities would know whether anyone had died.

Acting Governor Newsom sent a letter to President Donald Trump and the Federal Emergency Management Agency requesting an emergency declaration that would make federal assistance available to the communities affected by the wildfires.

The fires, one in the north of the state and another to the south near Los Angeles, are moving fast, driven by strong winds. Firefighters were able to stop the fire at the edge of the city, where evacuation orders remained in place Friday, Cal Fire Cpt.

Also burning in Ventura County was the Hill Fire, which grew to 10,000 acres by Thursday night, officials said. He said he thought he could save her house, but they would only watch helplessly as their home burned.

The entire city of Malibu was ordered to evacuate as the Woolsey Fire, as it has been named, continues to get closer to residential buildings.