The death toll is expected to climb, said California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) spokesman Scott McLean, because flames have blocked search and rescue crews from looking for victims in destroyed homes.
Wildfires burned out of control on Friday across California, killing at least nine people in a mountain town and forcing residents to flee the upscale beach community of Malibu in the face of a monster fire storm.
All nine victims were found in and around the Northern California town of Paradise, where more than 6,700 homes and businesses were burned down by the Camp Fire, making it one of the most destructive in state history, according to California Department of Forestry and Fire protection data.
"This event was the worst-case scenario. It was the event we have feared for a long time," Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said at a Friday evening press conference. "Regrettably, not everybody made it out."
The remains of five of the victims were discovered in or near burned out cars, three outside residences and one inside a home, Honea said.
Another 35 people had been reported missing and three firefighters had been injured.
The flames descended on Paradise so quickly that many people were forced to abandon their cars and run for their lives down the sole road through the mountain town.
A school bus was among several abandoned vehicles left blackened by flames on one road.
The Camp Fire, which broke out on Thursday at the edge of the Plumas National Forest northeast of Sacramento, has since blackened more than 90,000 acres and was only 5 percent contained as of nightfall on Friday.
A total of 6,453 homes had been destroyed in Paradise and elsewhere, Honea said, along with 260 commercial buildings. The Tubbs Fire, which destroyed 5,636 structures in Napa and Sonoma counties in October 2017, is listed by Cal Fire as the most destructive in state history.
In Malibu, some 500 miles (800 km) to the south, flames driven by hot Santa Ana winds gusting up to 50 miles per hour (80 kph) raced down hillsides and through canyons toward multi-million dollar homes.
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