Death toll hits 6 in N. California fire

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PARADISE, Calif. (AP) - The Latest on California's wildfires (all times local):

4:55 p.m.

A sheriff's spokeswoman has confirmed a sixth death in a Northern California wildfire that has forced tens of thousands of people to evacuate.

Butte County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Megan McMann said Friday she did not have details on the circumstances of the death.

Sheriff's officials said earlier that five people were found dead in vehicles that were torched by flames in the same area in the town of Paradise.

They said the five could not immediately be identified because of the burns they suffered.

Paradise is 180 miles (289 kilometers) northeast of San Francisco.

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4:40 p.m.

California has been granted federal funds to battle devastating wildfires that have destroyed entire neighborhoods and killed at least five people.

President Trump has issued an emergency declaration providing aid to help state and local firefighters battling blazes in Butte, Ventura and Los Angeles counties.

The money will help pay for firefighting aircraft along with shelter, supplies and transportation for the tens of thousands of evacuated residents.

The wind-whipped fires have destroyed blocks of homes in the Northern California town of Paradise, where five people have died.

Other fires in Southern California have destroyed many homes and threaten thousands of others.

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4:30 p.m.

Pacific Gas & Electric Co. says it experienced a problem on an electrical transmission line near the site of a massive fire in Northern California minutes before the blaze broke out.

The company said in a one-paragraph summary filed Thursday with state utility regulators that it had experienced an outage on the line about 15 minutes before the fire started. The company said it later observed damage to a transmission tower on the line near the town of Paradise.

The fire has killed at least five people and destroyed hundreds of homes. Paradise is 180 miles (289 kilometers) northeast of San Francisco.

The filing was first reported by KQED News.

Fire officials have not determined a cause for the blaze.

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4:15 p.m.

Paradise town councilmember Melissa Schuster lost her 16-acre Chapelle de L'Artiste retreat, a posh property with a chapel, pond and pool.

But Friday she was clinging to glimmers of hope inspired by two furry llamas - Shyann and Twinkle Star Heart.

"Somehow they made it through," Schuster said.

She had stopped trying to hook up a trailer for the animals and fled the home and property with just three cats on Thursday when the day turned pitch black as fire and smoke roared in.

On Friday she was trying to stay positive. She'd heard her son's home and hay barn survived, along with Town Hall and even some parts of the hospital.

"It's Paradise," she said. "It's always been Paradise and we will bring it back."

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3:45 p.m.

Blocks and blocks of homes and businesses in a Northern California town have been destroyed by a wildfire.

Parts of the town of Paradise were still on fire on Friday. At least five people in the town died.

Patrick Knuthson, a fourth-generation resident of Paradise, said only two of roughly 22 houses on his street survived. Knuthson stayed behind and was able to save his home.

He said he lost his previous home to a wildfire in 2008.

Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said about 20 deputies have also lost their homes.

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2:30 p.m.

A surgical nurse who evacuated from a Northern California hospital with a wildfire roaring nearby says she had to return after her vehicle went up in flames and one of her pant legs caught fire.

Nichole Jolly said Friday that she helped evacuate patients Thursday from Adventist Health Feather River Hospital in the town of Paradise, where at least five people died.

When she tried to leave, she got stuck in the firestorm.

She said firefighters extinguished her smoldering pants, covered her in a fire blanket and brought her back to the hospital, where she waited out the fire.

She said doctors extinguished burning trees around the hospital to try to keep the flames at bay.

Jolly eventually escaped the town.

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1:20 p.m.

Nurses and patients have recounted their dramatic escapes from a hospital in a Northern California town that was devastated by a ferocious wildfire.

Nurse Darrel Wilken told the Chico Enterprise-Record newspaper on Friday that the fire in the town of Paradise came so quickly that he and other employees at the Adventist Health Feather River Hospital used their own cars to evacuate patients.

Wilken said he took three patients in his car and that two of them were in critical condition. He says he battled gridlocked traffic on a road surrounded on both sides by fire.

Paradise resident Cody Knowles said his wife, Francine, was having gallbladder surgery Thursday morning.

When the evacuation was announced, she was still asleep from anesthesia. He waited until she woke up and they escaped in a hospital employee's car.

The hospital says it evacuated 60 patients to other facilities.

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1:10 p.m.

A road into a Northern California town devastated by wildfire is eerily deserted.

There were no signs of life Friday on the road toward the town of Paradise except for the occasional chirping of a bird. A thick, yellow haze from the wildfire hung in the air and gave the appearance of twilight in the middle of the day.

Strong winds had blown the blackened needles on some evergreens straight to one side. A burned out car with its doors open sat on the shoulder.

Five people have been found dead in Paradise from the fire, and sheriff's officials say they are investigating additional reports of fatalities. Thousands of buildings were destroyed.

The town of 27,000 about 180 miles (289 kilometers) northeast of San Francisco was completely evacuated.

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1 p.m.

The Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area has tweeted that Southern California's huge wildfire has apparently destroyed the TV and movie production location known as "Western Town" at the historic Paramount Ranch.

The National Park Service says it has no details or photos but the structures that formed Old West facades are believed to have burned on Friday.

The park service says the ranch served as locations for productions ranging from 1938's "The Adventures of Marco Polo" to TV's "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman," and the more recent shows "The Mentalist" and "Weeds."

Western Town specifically was built for TV productions in the 1950s and was used for such westerns as "The Cisco Kid" and "Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theatre."

The location set in the mountains west of Los Angeles dates to 1927 when Paramount Pictures leased the ranch and began making films there.

Filming continued for decades even as the ranch changed hands. It was acquired by the National Park Service in 1980 but has continued to function as a filming location.

When not in use for filming, visitors could stroll through Western Town while hiking or ride through on horseback.

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12:10 p.m.

A Northern California sheriff says authorities are trying to confirm reports that more than five people died when a wildfire devastated the town of Paradise.

Five people were found dead in vehicles Friday but Butte County Sheriff Korey Honea told television stations KHSL/KNVN in Chico that additional reports of deaths are being investigated.

Honea said flames and downed power lines in Paradise are preventing deputies from reaching some areas.

The five victims were found in vehicles in the same area of the town, where residents described traffic jams and panic as they tried to escape flames on Thursday.

Thousands of buildings were destroyed in Paradise, about 180 miles (289 kilometers) northeast of San Francisco.

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11:35 a.m.

A mandatory evacuation order for the entire city of Malibu has been reinstated as one of California's major wildfires bears down on the enclave called home by many Hollywood stars.

A city-wide evacuation was ordered early Friday and then was scaled back.

But it has been extended again to include all of Malibu, a city of about 13,000 stretching along 21 miles (34 kilometers) of coast west of Los Angeles.

Traffic is jammed on sections of Pacific Coast Highway.

Some residents have evacuated to the parking lot of popular Zuma Beach.

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11:25 a.m.

A Northern California university has closed its campus and cancelled weekend events because of a fast-burning wildfire.

But officials with California State University, Chico posted on Twitter Friday that the campus is not under evacuation and that dining halls and residence halls remain open.

The university says the fire has not entered Chico city limits and is moving away.

Chico has a population of about 93,000 people and is 15 miles (24 kilometers) west of the town of Paradise, which was destroyed by a fire that killed at least five people.

Paradise is 180 miles (289 kilometers) northeast of San Francisco and drifting smoke from the fire has made the air unhealthy in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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11:20 a.m.

Jessica Van Amber searched shelters, called around and appealed to people on social media to help her find her aunt and mom missing after a ferocious Northern California wildfire.

About 24 hours after she last heard from the women as they rushed to try get out of the town of Magalia, Van Amber posted on Twitter: "UPDATE: MY MOM HAS BEEN FOUND!!!!!!"

Van Amber her uncle called report the women were safe and on their way out Friday morning to reunite with relatives in San Francisco Bay Area.

She says the women stayed in the home overnight while the fire took over the neighborhood and eventually sought shelter in their car. Early Friday, they drove out of town and made contact with relatives.

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11:15 a.m.

Sheriff's officials in Northern California say the five people found dead in vehicles torched by a wildfire's flames could not immediately be identified because of the burns they suffered.

The Butte County Sheriff's Office said Friday that autopsies will be conducted.

Officials say the victims were found in the same area in the town of Paradise, near a main thoroughfare heading out of the town that was consumed by flames.

All of the city's 27,000 residents were ordered to evacuate on Thursday as the wildfire quickly turned into an inferno.

Many residents said traffic jams developed as they left as panicked people fled, some abandoning their cars to try to escape on foot.

The fire has grown to nearly 110 square miles (285 square kilometers).

Paradise is 180 miles (289 kilometers) northeast of San Francisco.

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11 a.m.

Northern California officials say investigators found five people dead in vehicles that were torched by the flames of a ferocious wildfire.

The Butte County Sheriff's Office said Friday the victims were found in the same area in the town of Paradise.

The fire has grown to nearly 110 square miles (285 square kilometers).

Paradise is 180 miles (289 kilometers) northeast of San Francisco.

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10:20 a.m.

A California National Guard official says 100 military police are headed to Northern California to help evacuate people from a wildfire.

Maj. Gen. David Baldwin says other military personnel are studying satellite imagery to assess the scope of the damage and map the fire.

The ferocious fire near the Northern California town of Paradise has grown to nearly 110 square miles (285 square kilometers).

Paradise is 180 miles (289 kilometers) northeast of San Francisco.

Smoke from the fire has made the air unhealthy in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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10:10 a.m.

Fire officials say evacuations due to a raging Southern California wildfire are expected to reach about 148,000 and structural losses are expected to be significant.

The so-called Woolsey Fire burning west of Los Angeles has surpassed 15 square miles (39 square kilometers) Friday morning and is continuing to grow.

Los Angeles County Deputy Fire Chief Dave Richardson says 45,000 people in Ventura County and 43,000 more in Los Angeles County were ordered to evacuate overnight.

Richardson estimates another 60,000 people will likely have to evacuate because the fire jumped U.S. 101 early Friday and is pushing toward the coast.

He says the fire's pace forced firefighters to focus on life-protection rather than saving structures and he expects that yet-to-be-determined number to be significant.

Another fire to the west has burned more than 9 square miles (23 square kilometers) in Ventura County but has slowed since reaching the footprint of a fire stripped away vegetation in 2013.

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10 a.m.

A California fire official says six major fires are burning around the state, and characterized three of them as "critical."

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Director Ken Pimlott said Friday firefighters are focused on saving lives and are still rescuing people from fires.

The fire near the Northern California town of Paradise has grown to nearly 110 square miles (285 square kilometers).

Another fire northwest of Los Angeles has been swept southward toward the ocean by strong Santa Ana winds.

Evacuation orders were issued for residents of the beachside community of Malibu.



 
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