Similar to other wildfires from the past two years, this one involved high winds and near-record dry conditions. Within six hours, it had grown to more than 26 square miles (69 square kilometers). It forced the evacuation of an entire town and destroyed hundreds of structures. Tens of thousands of people fled. Some firefighters and multiple residents were injured. “Pretty much the community of Paradise is destroyed, it’s that kind of devastation,” said Cal Fire Capt. Scott McLean late Thursday.
The extent of the injuries and specific damage count was not immediately known as officials could not access the dangerous area. “It’s a very dangerous and very serious situation,” Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said. The blaze erupted as windy weather swept the state. It prompted evacuations of a mobile home park, a state university campus and some neighborhoods. Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency for the fire-stricken area in Northern California and requested a presidential disaster declaration. The sheriff confirmed reports that evacuees had to abandon their vehicles. Rescuers were trying to put them in other vehicles, he said. At the hospital in Paradise, more than 60 patients were evacuated to other facilities. Four hospital employees were briefly trapped in the basement and rescued by California Highway Patrol officers. The wildfire is visible from space.