Fast-moving Northern California wildfire forces thousands from their homes

A fast-moving wildfire in Northern California has quickly grown to cover 20 square kilometres as officials try to evacuate thousands of people from the area.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection tweeted that the fire broke out at about 6:30 a.m. local time in the Feather River Canyon, prompting an evacuation of the immediate area. Just hours later, as the fire grew, officials ordered the evacuation of nearby Paradise, a town of about 27,000 people.

Firefighters are struggling with hot, dry conditions and winds of up to 80 kilometres an hour. 

Shary Bernacett told The Associated Press she and her husband tried to get people to leave the mobile home park they manage in Paradise, with just minutes to evacuate, as the wildfire approached the east side of town.

Bernacett said they “knocked on doors, yelled and screamed” to alert as many of the residents of 53 mobile homes and recreational vehicles as possible to leave the area Thursday morning.

She and her husband grabbed their dog, jumped in their pickup truck and drove through three-metre-high flames before getting to safety. She said the air is black with smoke and ash.

Bernacett said the fire also overtook the Feather River Hospital, three kilometers east of the mobile home park. It has been ordered to evacuate. Patients are being taken to other hospitals across the region. 

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