PARADISE (CBS13) — High winds and dry conditions turned an early morning fire into an inferno that devastated the Northern California town of Paradise on Thursday.

Cal Fire officials say the Camp Fire has “wiped out” Paradise, a town of about 27,000 people.

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The fire started at around 6:30 a.m. on Thursday and quickly exploded, reaching 18,000 acres just past the noon hour. As of Friday morning, Cal Fire says the blaze has exploded to 70,000 acres and is only 5 percent contained.

Fire crews spent much of the day trying to get a handle on an unrelenting inferno that sprawled through Butte County between Chico, Oroville and Paradise.

CBS13 crews went through Paradise at around 3 p.m. and saw buildings standing. Two hours later, the buildings were ablaze. That included the Safeway, hundreds of homes and even a church.

The full impact of the destruction won’t be known until the sun comes up on Friday morning. Officials say there have been multiple fatalities.

Tens of thousands of people were forced to flee the flames, and more joined them as the evening approached. Much of Highway 99.

Forrest Woodcox grabbed his dogs and sped off with his mom, sister and only the clothes on their backs.

“Minutes, everything was ignited by the time I got out of my house, everything was on fire,” he said. “It didn’t feel real to me. I honestly thought I wasn’t going to make it out of there.”

Feather River Hospital had to be evacuated to nearby cities. Fire officials say the hospital was one of thousands hit by the flames.

The speed of the fire caught many off guard. Evacuees tried to flee the area, only to be greeted by traffic as thousands tried to escape at the same time. Some abandoned their cars, creating a bigger traffic headache.

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Scanner traffic in the early moments showed an officer struggling to keep up with the overwhelming danger.

“I’m on foot, there’s 500 people in the middle of the fire. We are on Pearson Road. Evac.”

Paradise is a town made up of older people and retirees, leaving many outside the area trying to figure out what was going on with their family members.

Michele Watson was frantically messaging friends while watching the fire in Modesto, hoping to hear some news on her parents, Donald and Bonnie Bigger.

“All day long, I was so freaked out. I couldn’t even go to work. I don’t want to go to work. I don’t want to do nothing.

She’s hoping to hear something from them, hoping they’re OK somewhere just outside of Paradise.

Mandatory Evacuations: (Anyone in need of assistance to evacuate should call 911.)

  • Nimshew Zone
  • Lower Clark & Lower Skyway Zones
  • Paradise
  • Concow
  • Pulga
  • Upper Honey Run Zone
  • Carnegie Zone
  • North Pines Zone
  • North Fir Haven Zone
  • South Fir Haven Zone
  • South Pine Zone
  • Old Magalia Zone
  • South Coutelenc Zone
  • Paradise Zones 1-14
  • Centerville and Butte Creek areas
  • Fire zones 2,7, 11, 12, 13
  • Area of Highway 70 from Concow South, including all of Yankee Hill on both sides of 70.
  • Highway 32 at Nopel Road* to the Chico City Limits (does not include City of Chico)
  • Cherokee from Highway 70 to Lake Oroville, south to Table Mountain Boulevard
  • Both sides of Oro-Chico Highway (located west of Highway 99) from Durham-Dayton north to Estates Drive
  • Nelson Shippee Road

Evacuation Warnings:

  • Humbug Zone
  • Lovelock Zone
  • North Coutelenc Zone
  • Highway 32 at Nopel Road* to the Butte County Line (does not include City of Chico)
  • West Of Highway 99 from Highway 149 North to the Midway. (does not include City of Chico)
  • Highway 99 east to Highway 70 from Highway 162 to Highway 149
  • East of Bruce Road between Highway 32 and East 20th Street in Chico

*NOTE: Depending on your mapping software, this may be different.

  • Google Maps calls it Nopel Road
  • Apple Maps calls it Nopel Avenue

(Source: Butte County Sheriff, CHP – Oroville, Butte County)

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Evacuation shelters:

  • [FULL] Oroville Nazarene Church (2238 Monte Vista Ave, Oroville)
  • [FULL] Neighborhood Church (2801 Notre Dame Blvd, Chico)
  • Butte County Fairgrounds (199 E Hazel St., Gridley)
  • [FULL] Chico Elks Lodge, (1705 Manzanita Avenue, Chico, CA)

Small Animal Shelter:

  • Old County Hospital at 2279 Del Oro and Mono, Suite E, Oroville
  • Chico Airport, 150 Airpark Boulevard

School Closures

  • All schools in Butte County will be closed on Friday as a result of the fire. 
  • Monday will be the observance of the Veterans Day holiday.

An Emergency Volunteer Center is open at Caring Choices, 1398 Ridgewood in Chico. People interested in volunteering can go there or call 530-899-3873 for more information.