Two other wildfires meanwhile continued to scorch their way toward the Pacific Ocean in Ventura County, prompting evacuations of Malibu, a Cal State University campus and a naval base.
“The magnitude of the destruction that we are seeing is really, again, unbelievable and heartbreaking, and our, our hearts go out to everybody who has been affected by this and impacted,” Mark Ghilarducci, director of the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, said in a Friday morning news conference live-streamed on Facebook.
Butte County Sheriff-Coroner Kory L. Honea reported Friday that five people have been found dead in the area of Edgewood Lane in Paradise. Their bodies were found in vehicles that the sheriff said “were overcome by the Camp Fire,” and were too badly burned to identify yet.
Ghilarducci said in an earlier news conference that public safety personnel are so busy trying to fight the rapidly growing infernos and evacuating residents that they don’t yet know the full extent of the loss of life and property. He did say he was not aware of any fatalities involving public safety personnel fighting the fires.
There are six wildfires burning simultaneously up and down the state that has seen no rainfall nearly a month into the start of its rainy season.
Among them, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection reported Friday morning that the Brushy Fire in Mendocino County east of Highway 101 has reached 35 acres and is 50 percent contained. The Rincon Fire off Highway 9 north of Santa Cruz has held at 17 acres and is 90 percent contained.
But it is the massive Camp Fire that burned the town of Paradise east of Chico as well as the Hill and Woolsey fires in southern California that state officials called “critical” and are now the greatest concern.
As of Friday morning, the Camp Fire had burned 70,000 acres, nearly quadrupling in size overnight, and was only 5 percent contained. The fire scorched 110 square miles, six times the size of Paradise, a town of 26,000 that sits 12 miles east of Chico and 90 miles north of Sacramento, and more than twice the size of San Francisco. It has destroyed an estimated 2,000 homes and other buildings and is threatening 15,000.
The Hill Fire has burned 6,100 acres in Ventura County’s Santa Rosa Valley, prompting evacuation of 15,000 residents as well as the Point Mugu Naval Base and the Cal State Channel Islands university campus. Rich Macklin, a spokesman for the Ventura County Fire Department, said the fire swept southwest and crossed Highway 101 in just 12 to 15 minutes after it ignited. It remained uncontained Friday morning.
“Extreme fire behavior, extreme winds — resources couldn’t even get in front of it,” Macklin said at a news briefing Friday. “It was all about getting people out of the path of the fire. We weren’t even engaging the fire.”
How fast is this fire moving? Its burning up the equivalent of 80 football fields per minute. Residents in towns like Paradise, Chico, Magalia, Concow, Yankee Hill, Butte Creek Canyon, Cherokee, and Durham have already been told to evacuate. And emergency responders are doing their best to perform welfare checks on people who are unaccounted for.
Camp Fire turns deadly, raging to 20,000 acres
Ventura County fire spokesman Brian McGrath said that the Woolsey Fire south of Simi Valley has burned “10,000-plus acres” and has prompted the evacuation of Malibu. The fire department said some buildings had been destroyed but had no estimate of how many.
The fire started in the Feather River Canyon around 6:30am on Thursday morning and its still completely uncontained. The governor has declared a state of emergency and its believed that over 1,000 homes have already been destroyed, according to the Butte County Fire Chief Darren Read.
“It has grown rapidly over the night,” McGrath said. “Our higher priority is life safety and making sure people get evacuated.”
Ghilarducci said 105,000 people have been evacuated from the two southern California fires, and 52,000 have been evacuated in northern California around Camp Fire.
As CNN points out, over 2,200 firefighters are currently battling the Camp Fire and they face a tough road ahead. The combination of dry conditions and high winds are making this a particularly difficult fire to fight.
Impenetrable Smoke, Embers From Camp Fire Adding To Chaos As California Town Burns
State officials said that unfavorable weather conditions helped fuel the rapid growth of fires up and down the state, a combination of tinder-dry vegetation that hasn’t seen rain in months, low humidity and powerful, dry offshore winds have quickly whipped the flames into infernos.
Video: Driving through Paradise, California as the Camp Fire rages on
And while winds may slack into the weekend, the pattern is expected to continue into next week, they warned.
“We have red-flag conditions, critical fire weather across all of California,” Cal Fire Director Ken Pimlott said at the news conference. “We are basically looking at a very significant, dangerous weather pattern through this next week.”
Pimlott said more than 6,000 firefighters are deployed across the state to tamp down the flames, as well as every available aircraft. There are 1,860 “mutual aid” firefighters responding from local fire departments to the fires throughout the state, with 500 fire engines and hundreds of law enforcement officers.
The California Highway Patrol has assigned 125 state troopers to assist with evacuations and traffic control, CHP Commissioner Warren Stanley said. And the California National Guard has deployed 185 personnel primarily to the Camp Fire area to help with aircraft, satellite imagery and evacuation assistance, said Adjutant Gen. David Baldwin.
But the winds and smoke hinder the use and effectiveness of the aircraft, he said. State officials have requested firefighting assistance from other western states.
Social media posts capture intensity and speed of Camp Fire as it exploded
“When the Camp Fire started yesterday morning, it was immediately met 40 mph winds,” Pimlott said. “That fire, from the second it started, was off to the races. It was well off to burning at dangerous rates of spread. These are the kinds of conditions we’re seeing across California.”
Map: Camp Fire and evacuation zones near Paradise
Acting Governor and governor-elect Gavin Newsom has declared states of emergency for Butte, Ventura and Los Angeles counties, and requested federal assistance.
Dozens of people are missing in the wildfire area and social media has been inundated with desperate please from people looking for their missing loved ones. Hundreds of buildings and structures have been destroyed in the wildfire, with Paradise among the most impacted.
Video: Camp Fire turns fatal in Paradise, California
The sky over Chico was a deep, dark orange Friday morning, casting an eerie gloom over the college town. Dozens of names were still listed as missing on a board at the Neighborhood Church of Chico on Friday morning. Many people there were waiting for family members from out of town to arrive and help get them out, while others simply had nowhere else to go. Some exchanged hugs with family members who arrived. Others were planning to pick up supplies like phone chargers and pillows at stores. Volunteers roamed to make sure people had breakfast and coffee.
A scorched vehicle rests on a roadside as the Camp Fire tears through Paradise, Calif., on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018. Tens of thousands of people fled a fast-moving wildfire Thursday in Northern California, some clutching babies and pets as they abandoned vehicles and struck out on foot ahead of the flames that forced the evacuation of an entire town and destroyed hundreds of structures.
Photos: Camp Fire ravages Paradise, advances toward Chico
Some wondered when they would be able to get back to their homes, but they also doubted there would be homes to go back to.
State officials said local authorities did their best to get the word out quickly to residents to evacuate out of harm’s way, even going door to door as the fire spread quickly.
“The sheriff of Butte County was able to send information out, make notifications,” Ghilarducci said. “The fire moved so fast, many notifications were made by deputies and public safety personnel going house to house, combinations of different methods.”
Pimlott added that the community is no stranger to wildfires and was well-prepared when the order came to evacuate.
TOPSHOT – A home is overshadowed by towering smoke plumes as the Camp fire races through town in Paradise, California on November 8, 2018. – More than 18,000 acres have been scorched in a matter of hours burning with it a hospital, a gas station and dozens of homes.
“These were well-practiced evacuations,” Pimlott said. “But understand how quickly that fire has been spreading.”
“We are a long ways from being out of the fire fight right now,” Pimlott said. “Our focus is on life safety, particularly around the Camp Fire in Butte County. “Right now, it’s all hands on deck.”
Humboldt is one of many California counties contributing to the firefighting efforts in Butte County where the Camp Fire has burned over 70,000 acres in just over a day leaving the town of Paradise in ruins.
Friday morning Humboldt Bay Fire announced that it sent out one Type 3 engine, three personnel and a Strike Team leader to Butte County yesterday at 6 p.m. The Strike Team is made up of Type 3 engines from Arcata Fire District, Blue Lake Fire District, Miranda Fire Department and Briceland Fire District.
The group arrived at the Fire Base Camp in Chico at 1:30 a.m this morning and are scheduled to be placed on the fire line today where they’re set to work 24 hour shifts.
Video: Residents describe evacuating from Paradise as Camp Fire rages
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