LOS ANGELES, Nov. 8 (Xinhua) -- A wildfire dubbed Camp Fire has burned down up to 1,000 homes in the U.S. city of Paradise in Northern California, with multiple fatalities reported, local authorities said Thursday night.
Lynne Tolmachoff, a spokesperson for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) confirmed to Xinhua Thursday night that the fire caused injuries to civilians and firefighters, but the exact number of casualties is still unknown.
"The damage is mostly in the town of Paradise, the most significant damage," she said in a phone interview. "It happened so rapidly, but it took time for people to leave."
Tolmachoff said most local residents have been evacuated to nearby towns, while firefighters are still working "to help those people left behind."
According to Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea, three firefighters and several residents were taken to hospital; authorities are trying to verify the identities of those who perished.
Fueled by steady winds and dry grass, Camp Fire was first reported at about 6:30 am (1230 GMT Thursday) and rapidly hit Paradise, a city of 27,000 residents located about 150 km north of Sacramento, the state capital.
Videos posted online showed that houses located downtown were engulfed in flames one by one, the blaze was devouring trees and houses along the highway when residents fled the foothill town. Drivers abandoned their vehicles, forcing emergency personnel to push cars off the few roads leading to safety.
Till 8:00 pm, the fire has scorched over 20,000 acres (80.9 square kilometers) with zero containment, Cal Fire said, adding that about 15,000 structures are threatened, and in the eastern part of Chico, a nearby city, 80,000 residents are advised to evacuate.
According to Cal Fire, a total of 2,289 firefighters, helped by 11 helicopters and 24 dozers, are fighting the aggressive blaze, and more reinforcements are coming in from other cities.
"Weather forecast said wind will slide down tomorrow. That will help firefighters contain the fire," Tolmachoff told Xinhua.
Acting California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency Thursday for the fire-stricken area.