BUTTE COUNTY, Calif. — Over the course of a few hours on Thursday, a northern California wildfire grew at the rate of roughly one football field every three seconds, forcing evacuations of hospitals and schools in Butte County and sending residents racing from their homes.
The Camp Fire began around 6:30 a.m. and quickly spread over more than 5,000 acres, Cal Fire said. By 1 p.m., the blaze had grown to 8,000 acres.
Fueled by winds, it jumped ridges from Pulga to Concow and down into Paradise, a town of 26,000 people about 85 miles north of Sacramento. The glow of the flames cast the morning horizon in an orange pallor.
Cal Fire tweeted that the fire was “very dangerous” and urged people to follow evacuation orders.
Butte County Sheriff’s Office ordered evacuations for Pulga, South Pine Zone, Old Magalia Zone and South Coutelenc Zone as of 10 a.m. Shelters opened at Oroville Nazarene Church at 9 a.m. and Neighborhood Church in Chico.
The fire and evacuations led to gridlock traffic in Paradise, and multiple drivers abandoned their vehicles, Sacramento Bee reported.
Two separate calls to emergency responders reported a woman in labor for a “high-risk” pregnancy was in a vehicle on the side of Clark Road, the newspaper reported.
Sacremento Bee reported that multiple structures were damaged or destroyed near a hospital on Pentz Road as of about 9:45 a.m., but the hospital remained undamaged as of 9:45 a.m.
Pulga is 30 miles north of Oroville and 130 miles north of Sacramento.
State Highway 191 was closed at SR-70 due to the fire, Caltrans reported.
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.
PG&E had planned potential power shutoff events due to forecasted high winds and dry conditions. The shutoffs could take place in eight counties.
The National Weather Service issued a Red Flag Warning Wednesday night.