The blaze dubbed the Camp Fire, swept through the town of Paradise, driven by high winds and dry conditions, with social media reports that a hospital, high school and K-Mart store were on fire.
"When this fire started this morning wind speeds were 35 to 40 miles per hour gusts", Cal Fire spokesperson Lynne Tolmachoff said. Over the course of the day, evacuation orders were issued in Paradise, Concow, and Pulga, towns about 200 miles north of San Francisco.
Adventist Health Feather River, a hospital in Paradise, evacuated its patients on Thursday afternoon.
He confirmed reports that evacuees had to abandon their vehicles as they fled the scene.
May said the low humidity and the dryness of trees and brush are among the reasons for the Camp Fire and also pose a potential danger in Berkeley.
Pacific Gas & Electric, the state's largest utility, announced Tuesday it might preemptively cut power to eight California counties starting Thursday morning to prevent a possible wildfire, including Butte County where the Camp Fire is located.
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California is experiencing one of its worst fire years ever, with 251,610 hectares burned through Sunday in areas covered by Cal Fire, almost twice the amount during the same period of 2017 and almost triple the five-year average.
At least one nursing home and hospital were evacuated and several homes were on fire, according to the Sacramento Bee, and the region is covered with thick, dark smoke.
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 Camp Fire rages through Paradise, Calif., on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018. "God help us!" Bernacett said before breaking down crying. The whole hill's on fire.
Yesterday, Cal Fire officials said that parts of Northern and Southern California was under a "red flag" warning for critical fire weather "due to gusty winds, dry fuels & low humidity".
Four hospital employees were briefly trapped in the basement and rescued by California Highway Patrol officers, Kinney said.