Heroism, harrowing escapes as ‘Camp Fire’ destroys California town

Nicole White  File

Nicole White File

Nine people died in what quickly grew into the state's most destructive fire in at least a century.

Some of the first responders who rushed to the scene of the second mass shooting in less than two weeks in the United States were also helping out with fire-related duties.

Fire officials issued evacuation notices for homes on the east side of Chico, a city of about 93,000 people situated about 90 miles (145 km) north of Sacramento.

A raging wildfire in southern California has swept into the beach resort of Malibu - home to many Hollywood stars - leaving buildings burning and sending residents fleeing.

"Faculty and staff who work at the Malibu and Calabasas campuses should not report to work unless they are critical support personnel", Pepperdine said.

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

But he did say that four people were found inside a vehicle in the Paradise area, while another was found nearby outside the vehicle.

A former US Marine combat veteran opened fire in a bar packed with college students in Thousand Oaks on Wednesday night, killing 12 people and stunning a community with a reputation for safety.

Zoo staff have begun to evacuate some animals - starting with the lemurs - but the fire has not spread as fast as the Malibu blaze due to lighter winds. Thousands of firefighters are battling the flames.

Evacuation centers have been set up at the Butte County Fairgrounds in Gridley, Church of the Nazarene in Oroville and the Neighborhood Church in Chico (reported full as of Cal Fire's 8 p.m. Thursday incident update).

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It's estimated that about 1,000 building and homes have already been destroyed in Paradise, and while multiple deaths have been reported the exact number of fatalities has yet to be verified, according to Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea .

The fast-moving Camp Fire has been fanned by strong winds to scorch 20,000 acres and has not been contained, the California Fire Department (Cal Fire) said.

"There's nothing left standing", said Scott Maclean, the state's forestry and fire protection spokesman.

As of Friday afternoon, the area affected has turned into a 110-square-mile inferno, with 70,000 acres lost, thousands of structures destroyed, and a containment estimate of only five percent. "Just landed back home and had one hour to pack up and evacuate our home".

"I feel very vulnerable posting this, but I feel I should", she wrote in the post.

Her husband, the rapper Kanye West, said their family was "safe and close". Residents abandoned vehicles and ran from the flames carrying children and pets, officials said.

Residents are now using social media to search for missing friends and family members.

"It's very chaotic. It's a very bad fire", Officer Ryan Lambert of the California Highway Patrol said of the evacuation.

Millions of Californians remain under a "red flag" warning for conditions both ripe for fires and unhealthy air conditions.

The entire town was ordered evacuated, setting off a desperate exodus in which many motorists got struck in gridlocked traffic and abandoned their vehicles to flee foot.

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