5 die in California wildfires, 150,000 forced to flee

Lamar Ellis
November 10, 2018

Residents who managed to escape Paradise posted harrowing videos to social media as they drove through tunnels of swirling smoke and orange flames to outrun the wildfire in the Butte County town, north of Sacramento.

Officials have recovered the remains of five people from vehicles that were "overcome by" the raging fire in Butte County, the sheriff's department there announced on Friday morning.

In the first official report of fatalities, the Butte County Sheriff tweeted on Friday that investigators had found five dead bodies.

Fanned by high overnight winds, multiple fires have ripped through the state of California in recent days. By Thursday evening, it had scorched up to 7,000 acres and sent residents of more than 1,200 homes fleeing, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Malibu is less than 20 miles away from Thousand Oaks, a town that is still reeling from Wednesday's mass shooting where former US Marine combat veteran Ian Long opened fire in a bar packed with college students, killing 12 people.

Everyone in Paradise, a community of 27,000 people about 290 kilometres northeast of San Francisco, was ordered to get out.

"It's a very unsafe and very serious situation", Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea told The Associated Press.

The Ventura County Fire Department said the "Woolsey Fire" had burned around 35,000 acres, and evacuation orders were issued for some 88,000 homes in the county and neighboring Los Angeles County. "We had to ride through flames to get here", he said from the side of a road west of Paradise.

Areas of northern and southern California continue to be evacuated as the fiery whirlwind of the the Camp Fire struck today.

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

Parts of the city have been evacuated, as firefighters struggle to contain the inferno at the city limits.

"The blaze is being driven by fairly strong winds", Carhart said.

One of the fires broke out Thursday north-west of Los Angeles and roared south, jumping the United States 101 freeway early Friday and sweeping into the Santa Monica Mountains.

Malibu has about 13,000 residents - including a number of celebrities - and many have shared pictures of busy roads as scores of cars take to the roads in a bid to escape. "I pray everyone is safe", she said. "Just landed back home and had one hour to pack up and evacuate our home".

Butte County's Twitter feed has also been active with evacuation information; the county's official website appeared to be down as of Friday morning.

"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".

Conditions in Oak Park, just north of Malibu, have been described as "surreal" and "horrific".

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