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At least five die in wildfires as Malibu is evacuated

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At least five people have died in burnt out cars as wildfires sweep across California.

All five victims were found in the same area of the town of Paradise, in the north of the state.

Sheriff Korey Honea said reports of more deaths are being investigated.

In a statement, the Butte County Sheriff's Office said: "The preliminary investigation revealed that the victims were located in vehicles that were overcome by the Camp Fire."

Image: A firefighter battles a wild fire blaze in Magalia, California
The fire raged through the town of Paradise on Thursday
Image: The fire raged through the town of Paradise on Thursday

California fire captain Scott McLean said earlier that "pretty much the entire community of Paradise is destroyed", adding that the fire had grown to almost 110 square miles – four times its original size.

With fires also raging further south 157,000 people have been forced from their homes.

A separate fire is threatening Malibu and has caused the city to be evacuated.

The fire has claimed lives in Paradise, California
Image: The fire has claimed lives in Paradise, California
Thousands of homes have been evacuated as the fire rips through  communities
Image: Thousands of homes have been evacuated as the fire rips through communities

Those who live there have been warned of an "imminent threat" to their safety, with thousands of people being urged to flee however they can.

"It is critical that residents pay close attention to evacuation orders," the Los Angeles County Fire Department tweeted.

"This is a very dangerous wind driven fire."

The Woolsey Fire burns towards Paramount Ranch in Agoura Hills, California
Image: The Woolsey Fire burns towards Paramount Ranch in Agoura Hills, California

US media reports that schools have also been closed and evacuated due to the fire, and animals have been moved out of the LA Zoo in Griffith Park.

No deaths have been reported in Malibu.

Aerial footage of raging wildfire 0:54
Video: Aerial footage shows raging wildfires

Rapper Kanye West and his wife Kim Kardashian West are among those who have taken to social media to confirm that they are safe.

Actor Mark Hamill, who plays Luke Skywalker in Star Wars, tweeted that the fire is "dangerously close to our home" but that he and his family are safe. He lauded the work of the fire service.

Abandoned burned-out cars and school bus sit on the side of a road in Paradise, California
Image: Abandoned burned-out cars and school bus sit on the side of a road in Paradise, California

The first of the fires broke out on Thursday, northwest of Los Angeles, and roared south, with an estimated 75,000 homes evacuated in western Los Angeles County and eastern Ventura County.

Malibu has about 13,000 residents – including a number of celebrities – and many have shared pictures of busy roads as scores of cars take to the roads in a bid to escape.

The LA County Sheriff's Office said it was receiving "many emergent phone calls" from people who "need our help to evacuate" and urged motorists in the area to be aware of emergency vehicles.

Fire has ripped through the town of Paradise, California
Image: Fire has ripped through the town of Paradise, California
Paradise Inn was gutted by the blaze
Image: Paradise Inn was gutted by the blaze

Strong blustery winds combined with dry conditions have helped the blaze spread, after weeks without rain and low humidity at the height of the wildfire season in north California.

In the San Francisco Bay area, some 180 miles away from Paradise, locals have been encouraged to stay indoors due to worsening air quality caused by smoke from the fire.

More from California

The air has become hazy and the smell of smoke is overwhelming, prompting officials to declare it unhealthy.

They are advising older people and children to relocate any planned physical activities indoors.

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