SAN FRANCISCO – Some 30,000 people were evacuated after a wildfire broke out on Thursday in northern California and engulfed houses and public buildings such as churches and schools in the town of Paradise.
The fire has burnt more than 8,000 hectares (nearly 19,768 acres) in less than 24 hours and continues to grow because of the dryness of the terrain and strong winds in the area, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Calfire).
No casualties have been reported yet but there are several missing while some people have suffered serious burns.
Evacuation orders were given on Thursday in the small towns of Pulga, Magalia and Concow in Butte County, as well as in the town of Paradise, with a population of about 26,000, and in the rural areas of Butte Creek Canyon and Butte Valley.
In the early hours of Friday, local authorities issued evacuation orders for parts of Chico, which has a population of 90,000, as flames were moving towards the city.
The area is about 140 kilometers (86.9 miles) from state capital Sacramento and about 280 kilometers from the San Francisco Bay area, where the smoke from the fire is visible, EFE confirmed.
The “Camp Fire” was declared early in the morning and spread rapidly through very dry terrain, helped by strong winds of up to 80 kilometers per hour.
Acting governor of California, Gavin Newsom, requested the federal government for a presidential emergency declaration for physical and financial resources for the affected area.
Serious fires in California are increasingly frequent and violent, as evidenced by the fact that four of the five most destructive fires in the state’s history have occurred in the past six years, according to official records dating back to 1932.
In September, firefighters finally contained the Mendocino Complex fire, active since July and considered the largest in California’s history.