A fast-moving wildfire roared through a Northern California town on Thursday, with reports of fatalities as it burned hundreds of homes and sent tens of thousands of people fleeing 50-foot-high (15.25-metres-high) flames, authorities and a Reuters witness said.
"Every engine that we could put on the fire is on the fire right now, and more are coming", he said.
The Camp Fire, which broke out on Thursday at the edge of the Plumas National Forest northeast of Sacramento, has since blackened more than 90,000 acres and was only 5 percent contained as of nightfall on Friday.
The two Paradise churches, First Assembly of God, pastored by Billy "Jack" Wright, and Skyway AG, pastored by Mike Thompson, are both believed to have experienced fire damage. "However, the pastors told me that they were driving through fire trying to get out of town before the flames engulfed the city".
"There was really no firefight involved", said Capt. Scott McLean of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, explaining that crews gave up attacking the flames and instead helped people evacuate.
The Camp Fire ignited Thursday and evolved into the most fierce of the wind-driven fires in what has been one of the worst years for wildfires in California.
"All residents evacuate now", the city said via Twitter. "We tried to get all the nondigital things that we could - you know, stuff that couldn't be replaced", Peete said. Some of the "majestic oaks" the town boasts of on its website still have fires burning in their trunks.
'It was just a wall of fire on each side of us, and we could hardly see the road in front of us'.
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In Los Angeles, another, smaller fire in Griffith Park forced the Los Angeles Zoo to evacuate a number of show birds and some small primates on Friday as flames came within less than 2 miles (3 km) of the facility, zoo officials said in a statement.
Queues to leave the city have resulted in traffic jams and gridlock, which has led people to leave cars abandoned on roads as they rush to safety. Cars and trucks, some with trailers attached, were left on the roadside as evacuees ran for their lives, said Bass, the police officer.
Authorities were working on a plan to remove patients from a hospital after rescuers had to turn back because of gridlocked traffic.
Sheriff Korey Honea said reports of more deaths are being investigated.
The Ventura County Fire Department said the blaze had burned around 35,000 acres and evacuation orders were issued for some 88,000 homes in Ventura County and neighbouring Los Angeles County.
California Acting Governor Gavin Newsom on Friday declared a state of emergency for areas affected by the Woolsey and Hill fires in Ventura and Los Angeles counties.
Firefighters battle the Camp Fire as it tears through Paradise, Calif., on Thursday.
On Friday, the massive blaze spread north, prompting officials to order the evacuation of Stirling City and Inskip, two communities north of Paradise along the Sierra Nevada foothills.
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