Thousands evacuate as wildfires grow in California

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

6:45 p.m.

Many people who fled a Northern California town to escape a wildfire say they don't know whether their homes survived.

The police chief in the town of Paradise, Eric Reinbold, was in that group. Reinbold said Thursday he lives in the middle of town and doesn't know if his house is standing.

The town of about 27,000 people 180 miles (290 kilometers) northeast of San Francisco was evacuated. An Associated Press photographer found businesses and homes leveled or in flames, including a liquor store and gas station. A California fire official says he has reports of several hundred structures that have been destroyed, but officials say they won't have an exact count until they can get into the area.

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6 p.m.

A police officer who helped residents escape a wildfire bearing down on a Northern California town says the town has been devastated.

Officer Mark Bass said he returned to the town of Paradise on Thursday to find offices, large stores and restaurants leveled or burning. The town of about 27,000 people is 180 miles (290 kilometers) northeast of San Francisco.

Bass is an officer in the nearby town of Chico.

Another police officer in Chico, John Barker, said many elderly people live in Paradise and some are immobile. People posted photos on Twitter of missing seniors.

Barker said he was briefly trapped by fire while trying to get people out, with flames across the road in front of him and behind him.

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5:45 p.m.

Officials are describing a harrowing effort to rescue patients from a hospital in a Northern California town ravaged by wildfire.

Butte County Supervisor Doug Teeter said he was on a bulldozer that pushed cars out of the way Thursday to get to the Adventist Health Feather River Hospital in the town of Paradise. When he arrived there, patients were out in the front of the emergency room, where the roof had caught fire. The town of about 27,000 people is 180 miles (290 kilometers) northeast of San Francisco.

He said sheriff's deputies helped patients evacuate. Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said some people at the hospital were trapped in a tunnel.

Hospital spokeswoman Jill Kinney said all patients were evacuated.

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5 p.m.

A California fire official says he has reports of several hundred structures that have been destroyed in a Northern California town ravaged by a wildfire, but officials say they won't have an exact count until they can get into the area.

Butte County CalFire Chief Darren Read said Thursday the destruction in the town of Paradise could be upward of a thousand structures. Officials have ordered the town of about 27,000 people 180 miles (290 kilometers) northeast of San Francisco to evacuate.

An AP photographer found businesses and homes leveled or in flames, including a liquor store and gas station.

Acting California Gov. Gavin Newsom has declared a state of emergency in the area.

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4:30 p.m.

A California fire official says a Northern California wildfire has claimed a significant number of structures and injured two firefighters and multiple civilians.

Butte County CalFire Chief Darren Read provided the update at a news conference Thursday about the fire around the town of Paradise.

The fire has consumed more than 26 square miles (69 square kilometers) and forced residents of the town to evacuate. The town of about 27,000 people is 180 miles (290 kilometers) northeast of San Francisco.

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4 p.m.

A California fire official says people are trapped in a Northern California town that was evacuated because of a wildfire.

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Capt. John Gaddie said crews were still focused Thursday on helping people get out of the town of Paradise. The fire has consumed more than 26 square miles (69 square kilometers) and forced residents of the town to evacuate. The town of about 27,000 people is 180 miles (290 kilometers) northeast of San Francisco.

Gaddie said he was aware of four or five injuries, but no deaths. He said the fast-moving flames forced fire crews to shelter people at a Walgreens and other locations until flames passed through.

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3:45 p.m.

A Southern California university is being evacuated due to a fast-growing wildfire that has shrouded the school in smoke.

California State University, Channel Islands, says the Thursday afternoon evacuation of the 7,000-student campus is due to poor air quality.

The Ventura County Fire Department has also ordered evacuation of some communities in the path of the fire, which erupted a few miles from the site of Wednesday night's deadly mass shooting at a Thousand Oaks bar.

A second Southern California wildfire is also burning just northwest of the San Fernando Valley section of Los Angeles.