Deadly California wildfire causes "utter panic" as people try to escape

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

Residents have now been ordered to evacuate from several more towns to the west of Thousand Oaks, including Calabasas immediately south of Highway 101 and Malibu on the coast, as well as from the western edge of Los Angeles.

"Firefighters continue to actively engage the fire in order to protect life and property", the Chico Fire Department said in a Tweet.

Fanned by strong winds, it has scorched 70,000 acres (28,300 hectares) and has not been contained, the California Fire Department (Cal Fire) said.

The blaze earlier ripped through Paradise, about 20 miles east of Chico.

To illustrate the extent of "the dry", the town of Paradise, which has been destroyed, received a little more than 2cm of rain since May 1.

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"This fire moved so fast and grew so fast a lot of people got caught by it". Evacuation orders included the entire city of Malibu, which is home to 13,000, among them some of Hollywood's biggest stars.

"It was just a wall of fire on each side of us, and we could hardly see the road in front of us", Bass said.

Paradise is popular with retirees, and has a population of about 27,000. Witnesses reported seeing homes, supermarkets, businesses, restaurants, schools and a retirement home up in flames.

As she fled, Gina Oviedo described a devastating scene in which flames engulfed homes, sparked explosions and toppled utility poles.

"It is what we feared for a long time", Honea said, noting there was no time to knock on residents' doors one-by-one.

When Paradise was evacuated, the order set off a desperate exodus in which many motorists got stuck in gridlocked traffic and abandoned their vehicles to flee on foot.

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"There's nothing much left standing".

Authorities said around 105,000 people had been evacuated in southern California.

California Governor-elect Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency to provide assistance to the fire-hit areas.

The fire erupted on Thursday near the northwest corner of the city of Los Angeles as the region's notorious Santa Ana winds blew harder, triggering an overnight evacuation of 75,000 homes in Los Angeles and Ventura County.

Typically, for Los Angeles at least, the serious headlines are interspersed with others reporting that the mansion from the television series The Bachelor is burning, or that the homes of former Olympian Caitlyn Jenner and pop icon Cher, are at risk.

At midday on Friday local time, it covered about 5665 hectares.

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Among the celebrity homes reportedly damaged - if not destroyed - was the home of Caitlyn Jenner, who posted an Instagram video reporting that she was in a safe house, but wasn't sure what has become of her home.