PARADISE, Calif. (AP) – Shelley Freeman says her family and friends scrambled to evacuate in Northern California as a fast-moving fire approached.

She says she heard from a friend that people, horses and dogs had congregated in a parking lot of a Kmart in the town of Paradise. The friend waiting there with dogs in her car described to her all the trees around the store as on fire.

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Freeman says her friend described being surrounded by explosions in the parking lot and soon being unable to see the fire because of all the smoke.

Freeman says she’s had trouble reaching her family and friends who live in the area because phone lines are down. Those she has heard from say the roads are gridlocked.

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Freeman says she’s scared for everyone and feels helpless from far away.

Butte County Sheriff’s spokeswoman Miranda Bowersox said that all of Paradise, a town of about 27,000 people 180 miles (290 kilometers) northeast of San Francisco, was ordered to evacuate.

“It’s bad,” Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea told the Enterprise-Record. “We’re trying to get as many people out as quickly as possible and save as many lives as we can.”

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