California wildfires force hundreds of thousands to evacuate, claim five lives

A group of US Forest Service firefighters monitor a fire while battling to save homes at the Camp Fire in Paradise California

At least nine people have been killed and the entire town of Paradise, in northern California has been destroyed.

"This event was the worst-case scenario".

Los Angeles County sheriff's chief John Benedict said two people have been found dead but provided no details on the deaths. "Regrettably, not everybody made it out".

The Camp Fire was closing in.

Five of the dead panicked when they couldn't escape by auto because their route was cut off by a wall of fire, said Gabriel Fallon, who rode out the blaze with his parents to care for the horses, cows and livestock on their 10-acre farm in Paradise.

Some 35 people had been reported missing and three firefighters had been injured.

The most devastating is believed to be the Camp Fire, which by Friday morning had grown to 90,000 acres and was encroaching on the city of Chico, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, known as a Cal Fire.

In Paradise, the flames destroyed hundreds of homes, a hospital, a gas station, several restaurants and numerous vehicles, officials said.

Malibu is one of the most in-demand locations in California for Hollywood stars seeking privacy and luxury, and has been home to Leonardo DiCaprio, Jack Nicholson, Jennifer Aniston, Halle Berry, Charlize Theron, Brad Pitt and a host of other celebrities.

The fire has also reportedly destroyed one of the sets for the TV series Westworld. On Friday, it crossed the Santa Monica Mountains toward Malibu, where flames driven by wind gusts of up to 50 miles per hour (80 kph) raced down hillsides and through canyons toward multi-million dollar homes.

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Residents who evacuated from Malibu were directed to southbound Pacific Coast Highway, creating miles of stand-still traffic along the scenic route.

At this point the fire covered 35 thousand acres (14,150 hectares).

The 41-year-old singer said on Instagram that he, his girlfriend and his two kids are "safe and surrounded by friends and family" and were thankful to firefighters.

Kim Kardashian, Alyssa Milano and Melissa Etheridge were among thousands fleeing from their homes. The entire town of Malibu was evacuated due to the threat of the fire.

He said his house was likely to have been destroyed but that he and his wife Janet were safe and planned to sleep in their vehicle on the beach.

"Fire is now burning out of control and headed into populated areas of Malibu", the city said in a statement online.

When the order came to evacuate, it was like the entire town of 27,000 residents chose to leave at once, they said.

The Woolsey Fire is one of two blazes burning just miles from the site of Wednesday night's mass shooting in Thousand Oaks. The Camp Fire is 5% percent contained while the Woolsey Fire remains uncontrolled.

The damage toll from the fire remained unknown, but Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby said there has been "significant structural losses". She expressed gratitude to firefighters "putting their lives on the line for all of us" and sympathy for others affected by the fire.

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