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California fires in north and south burn homes, evacuate residents

Nov. 9 (UPI) — Two massive wildfires are sweeping across northern and southern California Friday, destroying homes, businesses and forcing at least one hospital to evacuate.

The Camp Fire in Northern California has so far forced 30,000 people to evacuate the Paradise area, about 80 miles north of Sacramento.

There have been reports that some people died in the fire. At least two firefighters were injured. Nervous relatives posted on Twitter or called 911 dispatchers hoping to find loved ones who were behind the fire line.

“We were engulfed in flames,” Butte County Supervisor Doug Teeter said. “I don’t know what we are coming back to after this. Probably a moonscape. As we drove out, homes were burnt to the ground.”

Several Paradise businesses were also lost, including a McDonald’s, a church and a diner. The fire has so far burned more than 20,000 acres.

Authorities said they were trying to relocate patients at the city’s Feather River Hospital when the fire jumped a nearby street, forcing people to huddle in a tunnel before escaping. The hospital wasn’t damaged but one of the support buildings burned.

“In the past few years, just the way fires have moved, firefighters have had to help with evacuations before they can go back in to put out the fire,” California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesperson Lynne Tolmachoff said, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. “There’s pretty much complete devastation in that community–entire streets where houses are wiped out.”

As of Thursday evening, the Camp Fire had no containment with 15,000 structures in its path as it approached Chico city limits, about 150 miles north of San Francisco. The cause of the fire, which started about 6:30 a.m. Thursday, is under investigation.

High winds are making it difficult for air tankers to extinguish the flames from above.

The smaller Woolsey Fire started in the Rocketdyne area of Simi Valley in Southern California Thursday, where it destroyed an estimated 30 homes and had burned approximately 8,000 acres by 3 a.m. Friday. No injuries have been reported.

Los Angeles County Fire Department Chief Trey Epsy said they were creating “water curtains” between homes to salvage the ones they could.

“They will continue to save homes and do whatever they can until the work is done,” Epsy told KCBS-TV.

Officials said the sudden evacuations clogged the roads in Oak Park, making it difficult to escape.

“It’s been a roller coaster,” one resident who stayed with his house told KCBS. “Hopefully they’re able to get it under control and save this neighborhood.”

Another neighbor said the fire was “like a freight train” but he praised firefighters for saving so many homes.

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