Videos of the area posted on social media showed cars driving along what appeared to be a tunnel of flame, while others depicted untouched lawns or buildings set against a backdrop of deep orange, the fire racing towards people's homes. At least two firefighters have been injured and multiple civilians injured, but number aren't available yet, Butte County Fire Battalion Chief Bill Reid said Thursday.
No injuries have been reported in either fire.
Resident Shari Bernacett told the Associated Press she "knocked on doors, yelled and screamed" to get mobile home residents in her area to leave as fire consumed the hillside.
The so-called Camp Fire, which started on Thursday, has torched dozens of homes and put some 15,000 structures under threat as a state of emergency was declared in Butte County.
The Bay Area Air Quality Management District also issued a warning Thursday afternoon, notifying residents of air quality impacts in the Bay Area due to the smoke drifting south from the Camp Fire. He was wrong. It was the flush of the Camp Fire around the town that made him panic: "I was waving down people just anyone on the road just help me because I didn't have a vehicle or nothing".
The blaze began early on Thursday and quickly charred 18,000 acres (3,237 hectares), forcing the evacuation of the 27,000 residents of Paradise, about 85 miles (240 km) north of Sacramento, Cal Fire said in a statement.
Other witnesses reported seeing homes, supermarkets, businesses, restaurants, schools and a retirement home engulfed in flames.
The entire town was ordered evacuated, setting off a desperate exodus in which many motorists got struck in gridlocked traffic and abandoned their vehicles to flee foot.
Many abandoned their cars and trucks on the side of the road.
When the order came to evacuate, it was like the entire town of 27,000 residents made a decision to leave at once, they said. After an hour of no movement, she abandoned the truck and chose to try her luck on foot.
"The blaze is being driven by fairly strong winds", Carhart said.
The fire started in the early hours of the morning near Pulga, a small community surrounded by the Plumas National Forest, officials said. Separate wildfires were ripping through the northern and southern parts of the state on Friday, sending tens of thousands of people fleeing their homes.
Cal Fire said the Camp Fire is only 5 percent contained. The town of about 26,000 people lost all power Thursday as the violent blaze knocked out power lines; Pacific Gas and Electric Co.de-energized some lines as a precaution, reportedly at the request of firefighters, a spokesperson said late Thursday morning. The whole hill's on fire.