Tens of thousands flee rapidly growing Camp Fire, hundreds of homes destroyed, 15 000 threatened, California

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A destructive wildfire is rapidly growing in California’s Butte County since it started early November 8, forcing tens of thousands of people to evacuate their homes. The fire grew to 8 000 ha (20 000 acres) before the end of the day day and is still 0% contained.

The Camp Fire started around 06:30 PST in the Camp Creek Road area near Highway 70 in the Feather River Canyon and grew to an estimated 8 000 ha (20 000 acres) by 19:06 PST.

Evacuation orders were established for Paradise, Magalia, Concow, Butte Creek Canyon and Butte Valley, CalFire said. Forest Ranch is under an evacuation warning.

Several hundred structures, including homes and businesses, in the town of Paradise (population 27 000) have been destroyed and the fire is now threatening another 15 000 structures.

At least 7 people were injured, including 2 firefighters, but there are no reports of casualties at this time.

The whole Paradise is on fire, local authorities said, adding that a large swath of the downtown has been destroyed. The event caused a chaotic evacuation of most of the town’s residents.

Camp Fire as seen by NASA/NOAA Suomi NPP satellite on November 8, 2018

“Pretty much the community of Paradise is destroyed, it’s that kind of devastation,” Cal Fire Capt. Scott McLean said late Thursday, November 8, 2018. “The wind that was predicted came and just wiped it out.”

According to media reports, emergency personnel reported to dispatchers that multiple people had been burned fleeing the blaze, including an elderly woman who received third-degree burns. More than 60 people were reported to be trapped inside a Walgreen’s in town, waiting for buses to shuttle them to safety. Adventist Health Feather River Hospital was evacuated and some auxiliary buildings – including a cardiology services building – had caught fire.

“The severity of this fire is without compare,” the Chico Fire Department said. “Please listen to evacuation orders and leave immediately when notified!”

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“Firefighters continue to be challenged with extreme fire and weather conditions including strong winds and with long range spotting,” Cal Fire said in a statement.

The combination of unseasonably warm conditions, dry fuels and low humidity with strong gusty offshore winds are contributing to a multi-day critical to extreme fire weather threat across California, especially for southern California, NWS said November 9.

Meanwhile, a developing storm system will produce locally heavy rain across the Northeast and heavy lake effect snow across the Great Lakes through Saturday.

Featured image: Camp Fire, California on November 8, 2018. Credit: NASA/NOAA Suomi NPP/VIIRS

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