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Deadly California fires ‘most destructive’ in the state history

A Cal Fire firefighter monitors a burning home as the Camp Fire moves through the area on November 9, 2018 in Magalia, California. Fueled by high winds and low humidity, the rapidly spreading Camp Fire ripped through the town of Paradise and has quickly charred 70,000 acres and has destroyed numerous homes and businesses in a matter of hours. The fire is currently at five percent containment. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

A Northern California fire has become the most destructive in the state’s modern history, killing at least nine people and wiping out much of an entire town.

A quarter of a million people have been forced from their homes statewide as the Camp Fire in the north and two other major fires — Woolsey and Hill — in Southern California burned this weekend.

As firefighters struggle to contain the uncontrolled wildfires, forecasters said intense winds and low humidity could fuel the blazes and make them spread even farther.

Evacuees trapped in traffic abandoned their cars and ran with their children in tow as the Camp Fire quickly closed in in Northern California’s Butte County.

Malibu mansions burned to the ground in Southern California, while another fast-growing brush fire left employees at the Los Angeles Zoo racing to protect animals from smoke.

In Thousand Oaks, a community mourning this week’s mass shooting, a recreation center where survivors grieved was filled with people fleeing the fire.

Latest developments

Death toll: The fast-moving Camp Fire killed at least nine people in Northern California. Some were inside cars, and others were near or inside homes. They have not been identified.

Trump tweets: President Donald Trump blamed the wildfires on the “gross mismanagement of the forests” in a tweet early Saturday. “Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!” he said.

Massive evacuations: Fire officials estimate the number of people forced from their homes statewide is more than 250,000.

Burning and growing: By late Friday, the Camp Fire was the largest, swelling to 90,000 acres. The Woolsey Fire has torched about 35,000 acres, while the Hill Fire was at 4,531 acres.

Containment: Firefighters are struggling to put down the flames. The Camp Fire is 5 percent percent contained, while the Woolsey Fire remains uncontrolled. The Hill Fire was 15% contained.

Destruction: In Northern California, nearly 7,000 structures have been destroyed, including 80% to 90% of the homes in Paradise, north of Sacramento. In Los Angeles and Ventura counties, a significant number of homes were destroyed or damaged, fire officials said.

Camp Fire

The Camp Fire has killed at least nine people in Paradise and destroyed 6,453 structures.

The bodies of five people were found in or near a vehicle, and the other four were in or outside a home.

The fast-moving blaze consumed most of Paradise, a town about 80 miles north of Sacramento.

Families described the scenes of panic and terror during their escape.

“The flames were whipping and spreading so fast,” Whitney Vaughan said after fleeing her home in Paradise. “It began to jump the road. There wasn’t anywhere to go.”

The town was mostly empty, and the main road littered with downed trees and power lines. Much of the brush and grasses were blackened along the valleys, and trees were still burning. An estimated 52,000 people evacuated in Butte County, where Paradise is located.

Fire officials said three firefighters and some civilians were wounded, but details about their injuries were unknown. About 35 people have been reported missing, authorities said.

Woolsey Fire

More than 200,000 people have fled in Ventura County and in Malibu in Los Angeles County due to the Woolsey Fire, officials said.

Firefighters worked to protect thousands of students and staff sheltering in place Saturday at Pepperdine University as flames started reaching the campus overnight, school officials said.

The fire crossed US 101 a few miles east of Thousand Oaks — the site of Wednesday night’s bar shooting — and was headed south to the Pacific coast in the direction of Malibu Creek State Park and the city of Malibu, the Los Angeles County Fire Department said.

In Malibu, mandatory evacuations were ordered for the entire city of about 12,000 people that’s known for celebrity beachside homes.

The howling Santa Ana winds fueled the Woolsey Fire. These are strong, dry winds that high-pressure systems push from east to west, from the mountains and desert areas down into the Los Angeles area.

A round of Santa Ana winds is forecast to whip the area Sunday through Tuesday, though it may be weaker than Friday’s.

Hill Fire

The Hill Fire is burning near the site of this week’s mass shooting in Thousand Oaks.

It started Thursday and initially spread quickly, torching 10,000 acres in six hours. But firefighters have made some progress. As of Friday night, it was 15% contained.

Part of the blaze was burning into the footprint of a 2013 wildfire, which could slow its spread, Ventura County Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen said.

No houses or businesses have been lost in the fast-moving blaze, but a number of RVs and outbuildings have been burned, and a firefighter suffered a minor injury, authorities said.