Paradise lost: California community 'destroyed' by wildfire
'It's that kind of devastation,' fire captain says
As a wildfire continues to rage in Northern California, one official gave a bleak update on the status of one town that was engulfed in flames.
"Pretty much the community of Paradise is destroyed. It's that kind of devastation," said Cal Fire Capt. Scott McLean late Thursday.
McLean estimated that a couple of thousand structures were destroyed in the town of 27,000 residents located about 300 kilometres northeast of San Francisco.
By nightfall Thursday, it had consumed more than 73 square kilometres, and firefighters had no containment on the blaze, McLean said.
"The wind that was predicted came and just wiped it out," McLean said.
By Friday afternoon, the fire had grown to 285 square kilometres, and investigators found five people dead in vehicles that were torched by the flames
Tens of thousands of people were ordered to flee the fast-moving flames — dubbed the Camp Fire by officials.
Thick grey smoke and ash filled the sky above Paradise and could be seen from kilometres away.
"It was absolutely dark," said resident Mike Molloy, who said he made a split decision based on the wind to leave Thursday morning, packing only the minimum and joining a sea of other vehicles.
With Paradise located on a ridge and escape routes limited, traffic accidents turned roads into gridlock. Residents abandoned vehicles and ran from the flames carrying children and pets, officials said.
The National Weather Service issued red-flag warnings for fire dangers in many areas of the state, saying low humidity and strong winds were expected to continue through Friday evening.
In the midst of the chaos, officials said they could not provide figures on the number of wounded, but County Cal Fire Chief Darren Read said at a news conference that at least two firefighters and multiple residents were injured.
"It's a very dangerous and very serious situation," Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said.
With files from The Associated Press and CBC News