UPDATE 2-Many homes burned as thousands flee California wildfire

(Reuters) – A “significant” number of structures were burned by a fast-moving northern California wildfire on Thursday, with reports that a hospital was ablaze, as tens of thousands of residents were forced to flee, state authorities said.

Driven by high winds and dry conditions, the blaze dubbed the Camp Fire began on Thursday and quickly charred 8,000 acres (3,237 hectares). It forced the evacuation of the 27,000 residents of Paradise, about 150 miles (241 kms) northeast of San Francisco, and other communities, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) said in a statement.

“There is significant loss of structures,” Cal Fire spokesman Rick Carhart said.

Images posted on Twitter showed thick, gray smoke choking the sky above Paradise.

Wildfire photographer Bernie Deyo tweeted that one of the main buildings at Feather River Hospital in Paradise was on fire.

Carhart said he could not confirm reports that the hospital was burning, but said all patients had been evacuated.

Fire authorities did not indicate how the blaze started.

The fire has cut off power to roughly 34,000 customers in Butte and Plumas counties, according to a spokesman for Pacific Gas Electric.

Reporting by Andrew Hay; editing by Tom Brown and Bill Berkrot

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