(PARADISE, Calif.) — Tens of thousands of people were ordered to evacuate a fast-moving wildfire that exploded in size Thursday, threatening several Northern California communities and forcing panicked residents to race to help neighbors who had to drive through walls of flames to escape.
Butte County Sheriff’s spokeswoman Miranda Bowersox said that all of Paradise, a town of about 27,000 people 180 miles (290 kilometers) northeast of San Francisco, was ordered to evacuate.
Rick Carhart, a Cal Fire spokesman, said the wildfire was reported at 6:30 a.m., affecting about 30,000 people in the towns of Paradise, Concow and other small communities.
The Adventist Health Feather River Hospital in Paradise evacuated all its patients and staff, given its close proximity to the fire, and transported them safely to hospitals in neighboring towns, said Jill Kinney, an Adventist Health spokeswoman.
Shary Bernacett said she and her husband tried to get people to leave the mobile home park they manage in Paradise and had minutes to evacuate as flames reached the east side of the town.
Bernacett said she and her husband “knocked on doors, yelled and screamed” to alert as many of the residents of 53 mobile homes and recreational vehicles as possible to leave.
In Chico, west of the fire, resident Tina Greer said the care home where her disabled son lives with five other patients was evacuating.
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.
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