The massive Camp Fire that exploded near Chico in Butte County “grew substantially” overnight, officials said, prompting new evacuations Friday as it continued to threaten thousands of structures as people ran for their lives. Officials have confirmed five fatalities.
The blaze reached 70,000 acres by Friday morning — more than twice the size of San Francisco — and was 5 percent contained, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
“It grew quite a bit overnight,” said Rick Carhart, a spokesman for Cal Fire.
Here’s what we know right now:
Damage and response
The Camp Fire, given the name because of its proximity to Camp Creek Road near Highway 70 in the Feather River Canyon, started about 6:30 a.m. Thursday and grew to more than 20,000 acres by the end of the night. At least 2,000 structures were destroyed and 15,000 were threatened by the flames. The cause of the fire is under investigation.
So far, 2,303 fire personnel were battling the blaze with 303 fire engines, 59 fire crews, 11 helicopters, 24 dozers and 11 water tenders, according to Cal Fire.
The blaze is expected to be fully contained by Nov. 30, Cal Fire said.
On Thursday, at least 50,000 people fled from the fires in Paradise, which is 15 miles east of Chico and 80 miles north of Sacramento. The towns of Pulga and Concow, and residents of Magalia, Butte Creek Canyon and Butte Valley had also been ordered to leave.
New evacuations were ordered Friday for Stirling City and Inskip. Residents were told to exit through Butte Meadows and down Highway 32.
Close to 30,000 people were without power in the area, according to Pacific Gas & Electric Co.
Officials confirmed that five people were killed in the area of Edgewood Lane in Paradise. The victims were found in vehicles that were burned by the blaze, according to the Butte County Sheriff’s Office. They were not identified. Three firefighters were injured in the blaze.
Scores of people took to social media asking for information about missing family members and posted photos and last known addresses, but there were no immediate numbers from authorities on how many people were unaccounted for. Many people reported missing on social media were retirees in their 80s. The American Red Cross issued an alert for residents to register as “safe and well” on their website.
Mandatory evacuations are underway in Northern California as the #CampFire continues to blaze through at least 18,000 acres.
— ABC News (@ABC) November 8, 2018
As of Friday morning in Butte County, Highway 70 was closed in the westbound direction from Garden Drive to the Highway 89 junction in Butte.
Highway 89, in the eastbound direction, was closed to the Highway 149 junction.
Highway 99 was closed in both directions from Shippee Road to Southgate Avenue. Highway 191 was shut down at the Highway 70 junction. Go here for more information on road closures.
An Amber Alert-style message to warn people in and around the community of Paradise did not occur when the Camp Fire broke out early Thursday, officials said. The Butte County Sheriff’s Office instead used an opt-in program to contact about 23,000 people who had signed up to receive emergency notifications or had landline telephones.
Evacuation efforts were “difficult, to say the least,” said Lt. Al Smith, of the Butte County Sheriff’s Office. Several deputies who ventured into evacuation zones to rescue residents became trapped by the nearly 100-foot flames.
Strong winds were fueling the fire, Cal Fire officials said. The Bay Area Air Quality Management District issued a red alert and rated air quality in the unhealthy range, warning residents to limit their time outdoors, keep windows closed and stay hydrated.
The Red Flag Warning throughout the Bay Area ended at 7 a.m. Friday. However, forecasters warned that humidity would remain “critically low” throughout the weekend and fire conditions will continue.
Schools in Butte and Sonoma counties were closed Friday due to the smoky air.