Nine die in California wildfires, 150,000 forced to flee

A group of Cal Fire firefighters monitor ambers from a toppled wall while battling the Camp Fire in Paradise, California, US, November 9, 2018. Photograph:( Ruptly )

AFP Paradise, CA, USA Nov 10, 2018, 09.54 AM (IST)

Nine people were declared dead and tens of thousands evacuated Friday as fierce wildfires raged across the western US state of California, with one rapidly spreading blaze threatening the famed resort of Malibu.

All of the fatalities were reported in a massive late-season inferno in the town of Paradise, in Butte County north of the state capital Sacramento, where the entire population of 26,000 was ordered to leave, officials said.

The fast moving blaze, known as the "Camp Fire," began Thursday morning. Fanned by strong winds, it has scorched 70,000 acres (28,300 hectares) and has not been contained, the California Fire Department (Cal Fire) said.

Two other fires broke out in southern California, one in Ventura County near Thousand Oaks, where a Marine Corps veteran shot dead 12 people in a country music bar on Wednesday night.

"The magnitude of destruction we have seen is really unbelievable and heartbreaking and our hearts go to everybody who has been affected by this," said Mark Ghilarducci, the director of the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services.

Late Friday Butte County Sheriff Korey Honea updated the Camp Fire death toll. 

"It's my sad duty to confirm that we now have a total of nine fatalities," he said, four more fatalities beyond the five reported earlier.

Details were limited, and Honea did not release names of the victims.

"I don't have all of the details because we have investigators out on the field attempting to get to those locations" where the casualties were reported, Honea said at a press conference.

But he did say that four people were found inside a vehicle in the Paradise area, while another was found nearby outside the vehicle. Three more were found outside a residence, and one inside a house.

Dozens of other people were reported missing.

Story highlights

The victims died in their vehicles trying to escape a massive late-season inferno in the northern California town of Paradise, where the entire population of 26,000 was ordered to leave, officials said.