Camp Fire near Chico: California wildfire spreads to 18000 acres; over 20000 evacuated


More than 20,000 people were ordered to evacuate several Sierra foothills towns near Chico on Thursday as a wildfire raged out of control and grew to more than 18,000 acres in just seven hours.

Law enforcement has reported that some residents and sheriff’s deputies are trapped inside the perimeter of the conflagration.

With thousands trying to leave at the same time, evacuations have become “difficult, to say the least,” said Lt. Al Smith, of the Butte County Sheriff’s Office. Several sheriff’s deputies who went into the evacuation zones to rescue residents have also become trapped by active flames burning around them.

“I can’t think of an area that’s safe right now,” Smith said.

The blaze is still burning in multiple parts of Paradise, an incorporated town of about 27,000 that is home to many retirees and lies about 10 miles east of Chico in the foothills north of Sacramento.

Acting Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency Thursday afternoon in Butte County, which could make the state eligible for federal assistance in fighting the wildfire.

“Multiple” structures have burned, said Scott McLean, a spokesman with the state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire. Sheriff’s officials confirmed that several people were being treated for burns.

The conflagration, dubbed the Camp Fire, started in the area of Camp Creek Road and Pulga Road near Highway 70 in the Feather River Canyon, said Cal Fire officials said. As of 1:45 p.m., the fire was 0 percent contained.

The Butte County towns of Paradise, Pulga and Concow were evacuated shortly after the fire started about 6:30 a.m. Cal Fire officials said that residents of Magalia, Butte Creek Canyon and Butte Valley have also been ordered to leave.

Skyway Road and parts of Highway 70 are closed, CHP and Caltrans officials said, and residents are being asked to evacuate using alternate roads. Officers are redirecting traffic on northbound Highway 99 near the Highway 149 junction southward.

The Paradise Unified School District and Butte College closed their doors Thursday morning under evacuation orders from fire officials. Feather River Hospital in Paradise was also being evacuated as of 9 a.m. The fire had jumped a road leading to the hospital.

As of noon, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. reported that 34,280 customers in Butte County and neighboring Plumas had lost power. The outages began at 7:45 a.m. near Big Bend and Concow, PG&E spokesman Paul Moreno said.

Red Cross officials said there were about 40 evacuees at their two shelters in Oroville and Chico as of 12:50 p.m., and supplies were on the way to a third shelter at the Butte County Fairgrounds.

As the fire spread west, Butte County officials announced that it was accepting emergency volunteers at Caring Choices at 1398 Ridgewood Drive in Chico.

Engines from the San Francisco Fire Department, Santa Rosa Fire Department and multiple other Californian agencies are aiding Butte County firefighters with the response.

The fire has sent dark clouds of smoke over Chico and as far south as the Bay Area.

A smoke advisory has been issued for the Bay Area through Friday, air district officials said. Residents may see or smell smoke from the Camp Fire.

Pulga and Concow are both small, rural unincorporated communities in Butte County. Concow has about 710 residents. Pulga had two residents when it was sold in 2015, according to media reports.

Several shelters have opened in Butte County to accommodate evacuees:

•Oroville Nazarene Church at 2238 Monte Vista Avenue. in Oroville

•Neighborhood Church at 2801 Notre Dame Boulevard in Chico

•East Ave Church at 1185 East Avenue in Chico

•Butte County Fairgrounds at 199 East Hazel Street in Gridley

•The Old County Hospital at 2279 Del Oro Ave. in Orovile is accepting small animals

Megan Cassidy, Gwendolyn Wu and Kurtis Alexander are San Francisco Chronicle staff writers. Email:,, Twitter: @meganrcassidy @gwendolynawu @kurtisalexander

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