At least five people were killed when flames from a raging wildfire engulfed their vehicles in Northern California, authorities said.
The victims were found dead in torched vehicles Thursday in the town of Paradise, where the Camp Fire has ravaged entire neighborhoods. Autopsies will be conducted to determine the circumstances of the death and to identify the individuals, but investigators believe their vehicles were “overcome” by the flames, the Butte County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement Friday.
Authorities have received reports of additional fatalities due to the blaze, which investigators are still working to confirm.
“The task is difficult due to the fact that the fire is still active and there are many hazards in areas where fatalities have been reported,” the sheriff’s office said.
The Camp Fire ignited Thursday morning in Pulga, a tiny community in Butte County nestled in the Plumas National Forest, and strong winds fanned the flames overnight, sending thousands of residents fleeing for their lives.
The blaze raced southwest overnight through the small community of Concow and then Paradise, which was largely destroyed, according to Scott McClean, public information officer of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
The flames enveloped Feather River Hospital in Paradise, forcing staff to evacuate patients from the 101-bed acute care facility, McClean told reporters at a press conference Thursday.
The fire was also burning to the northwest into Magalia and toward Stirling City.
By Friday morning, the blaze had grown in size to an area of about 70,000 acres in Butte County and was just 5 percent contained, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Some 40,000 people have been evacuated and at least 2,000 structures in the effected area have already been destroyed.
Pulga, Concow, Magalia, Stirling City as well as the the entire town of Paradise were among the areas that remained under mandatory evacuation orders Friday.
Meanwhile, two fast-moving wildfires tore through Southern California.
One of the blazes jumped the 101 Freeway on Friday morning and continued burning toward Malibu, prompting officials to order the entire city to evacuate. The other fire could spread all the way to the Pacific Ocean, authorities said.
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