Flames consume a auto dealership as the Camp Fire tears through Paradise, Calif., on Thursday.
"Pretty much the community of Paradise is destroyed, it's that kind of devastation", said Cal Fire Capt. Scott McLean late Thursday.
McLean estimated that the lost buildings numbered in the thousands in Paradise, about 180 miles northeast of San Francisco.
A wildfire is hopscotching across a northern California county at a rate of roughly 80 football fields per minute, forcing evacuations, injuring residents and firefighters, and sending families racing from their homes.
No injuries have been reported in either fire.
"The problem is the winds that pushed the fire so much, so fast", said Maclean, adding that it could be days before authorities knew the full extent of fatalities and destruction.
The Butte County Sheriff's office said an evacuation order was issued for areas of Paradise, a town of about 27 000 people. People in some neighborhoods have been told to get out.
"Everything was ignited by the time I got out of my house, everything was on fire", another person said.
"There were people who weren't able to get out", Honea said, speaking from a makeshift command post at Butte College, which had been closed the previous day. To make matters worse, as the flames approached, they sparked explosions and toppled utility poles.More news: City of Malibu ordered to evacuate as flames jump Hwy 101
As of Thursday afternoon, local time, the Camp Fire has burned through 8,000 acres of forest and is 0% contained, according to California Fire officials.
Video footage taken by ABC Redding affiliate KRCR showed the hospital surrounded by thick smoke as the fire illuminated the darkened sky in the background. Residents abandoned vehicles and ran from the flames carrying children and pets, officials said. Hospital patients were transferred to Oroville Hospital and Enloe Medical Center.
"It's very chaotic", Officer Ryan Lambert of the California Highway Patrol said.
The Camp Fire started around 6:30 a.m. Thursday near Pulga Road at Camp Creek Road near Jarbo Gap.
Kelly Lee called shelters looking for her husband's 93-year-old grandmother, Dorothy Herrera, who was last heard from on Thursday morning.
"God help us!" she said before breaking down crying. "We're anxious sick. They do have a vehicle, but they both are older and can be confused at times".
Los Angeles County Fire Department Chief Trey Epsy said crews created "water curtains" between homes to salvage the ones they could.
In just 24 hours, the disastrous Camp Fire in Northern California has burned at the rate of nearly an acre per second and scorched an area more than twice the size of San Francisco. Meanwhile, the so-called "Hill Fire" was burning farther west in Ventura County and was also moving toward the ocean.
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.