Officials order evacuations as Camp Fire threatens Northern California

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On Thursday afternoon, California fire officials say the fire had expanded to about 18,000 acres, but its true size is hard to pinpoint because of heavy smoke, which can be seen from miles away.

Pacific Gas and Electric Company said about 14,000 residents of Butte and Plumas counties were without power due to fire activity and requests from firefighters to cut electricity in certain areas for safety, Sacramento Bee reported.

At least 27,000 people in the town of Paradise about 180 miles (290 kilometers) northeast of San Francisco were ordered to flee. Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said some people at the hospital were trapped in a tunnel.

Photos and videos on social media show just how intense the massive wildfire has become. "We had to ride through flames to get here", he said from the side of a road west of Paradise.

A hospital and several schools were evacuated as thick grey smoke and ash filled the sky above Paradise and could be seen from miles away. He "knocked on doors, yelled and screamed" to alert as many residents as possible, Bernacett said.

"My husband tried his best to get everybody out. God help us!" she said before breaking down crying.

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Among them was Kim Curtis, who was searching for her grandmother, who told family at 8 a.m. today that she would flee her Paradise home in her Buick with her cat.

Fire officials said the flames were being fueled by winds, low humidity, dry air and severely parched brush and ground from months without rain.

The Adventist Health Feather River Hospital in Paradise evacuated all its patients and staff, given its close proximity to the fire, and transported them safely to hospitals in neighboring towns, Jill Kinney, an Adventist Health spokeswoman told the Associated Press.

Authorities were working on a plan to remove patients from a hospital after rescuers had to turn back because of gridlocked traffic.

"It's very chaotic. It's a very bad fire", Officer Ryan Lambert of the California Highway Patrol said of the evacuation.

Driven by strong winds and dry conditions, the blaze dubbed the Camp Fire swept through the town of Paradise, burning part of the local hospital and possibly destroying over a thousand homes and other structures, county and city officials said.

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