Paradise, a small Northern California town 180 miles northeast of San Francisco, was all but destroyed in a fire on Thursday. High winds and thousands of acres of dry vegetation helped the fire—named the Camp Fire after the road where it started—spread rapidly, leaving tens of thousands of people fleeing for their lives, the Associated Press reports.
The fire began early Thursday morning in Butte County, CA. It quickly grew to over 1,000 acres, then to over 26 square miles. Heavy ash fell in the nearby college town of Chico, while smoke from the fire was blown hundreds of miles, causing dangerous air conditions throughout the Bay Area.
Stories emerged of harrowing escapes, including reports of evacuees abandoning their vehicles and running from the fire on foot. Patients and healthcare providers were trapped in a local hospital that caught fire, though they all seem to have escaped.
Paradise, a city of 27,000, suffered a massive amount of damage. Captain Scott McLean told the AP the town was “pretty much” destroyed. According to fire captain John Gaddie, more than 1,000 structures were burned. Those who evacuated still have no idea whether their homes are still standing.
The fire department has reported multiple injuries, but so far no deaths. Families were posting photos of missing relatives online, including many seniors who lived in Paradise.
The Camp Fire comes a little over a year after the Tubbs Fire, another fast moving, wind-driven brush fire that destroyed thousands of homes and killed at least 23 people in nearby Sonoma County, CA. It was the most destructive fire in California history.