Southern California wildfire threatens 30,000 homes, forces evacuations


Pacific Gas & Electric, the state's largest utility, announced Tuesday it might preemptively cut power to eight California counties starting Thursday morning to prevent a possible wildfire, including Butte County where the Camp Fire is located.

The wildfire has been moving southwest through Paradise, a town of about 26,000, said Lynne Tolmachoff, chief of public education for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, aka Cal Fire.

Evacuation orders are in place for Paradise, Magalia, Concow, Butte Creek Canyon and Butte Valley while hundreds of firefighters battle the blaze. The fire has already consumed more than 8,000 acres.

Authorities were working on a plan to remove patients from a hospital after rescuers had to turn back because of gridlocked traffic.

He confirmed reports that evacuees had to abandon their vehicles as they fled the scene. The normally two-way road has been converted to one-way to allow more people to escape. As of Thursday afternoon, evacuations were added for several counties as the Camp Fire continued to pick up speed in the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains.

"Everything was ignited by the time I got out of my house, everything was on fire", another person said. "We're doing everything we can to get people out of the affected areas". Hospital patients were transferred to Oroville Hospital and Enloe Medical Center. "We tried to get all the nondigital things that we could - you know, stuff that couldn't be replaced". God help us!' Bernacett said before breaking down crying. State fire authorities said they could not confirm the reports.

"There's nothing much left standing", he said. Dramatic footage shows flames closing in around the highways out of town and thick smoke hanging in the sky, obscuring the horizon.

Four of the hospital's employees were briefly trapped in the basement and rescued by California Highway Patrol officers, Kinney said.

Concerned friends and family posted frantic messages on Twitter and other sites saying they were looking for loved ones, particularly seniors who lived at retirement homes or alone.

"Right now, Mother Nature is in charge", spokesman Bryce Bennett told the Bee.

"We had to drive through flames to make it out safely", she said. 'There are dozens of strike teams that we're bringing in from all parts of the state'.

A Red Flag Warning is in place through Friday morning in the Butte County area, and winds are expected to gust at speeds as high as 40 miles per hour overnight, according to the National Weathers Service.