5 people found dead in vehicles torched by fire

The Woolsey Fire burning in Simi Valley Calif. Nov. 9 2018

Nine people were declared dead and 150,000 evacuated as fierce wildfires raged across the western USA state of California, with one rapidly spreading blaze threatening the famed resort of Malibu.

The Woolsey blaze shut down 101 Freeway after causing the evacuations of 75,000 homes in parts of Thousands Oaks in northwest Los Angeles, the site of a shooting massacre by a former United States marine this week.

The Butte County Sheriff's Office said the victims were located in the town of Paradise, whose 26,000 residents were told to flee the fire's path on Thursday.

Three fires across northern and southern California have scorched thousands of acres fanned by strong Santa Ana winds.

The entire city of Malibu was ordered to evacuate Friday morning as well as surrounding areas south of Highway 101, the entire community of Oak Park and sections of Thousand Oaks, according to a Ventura County incident webpage.

By late Friday night, the smaller Hill fire's advance had halted, but the Woolsey fire continued to surge. No fire-related injuries or fatalities have been reported as of yet, but winds expected to reach 112 kilometers per hour (70 mph) could help the fire continue to spread.

Five people were discovered dead in or near burned-out cars, while another 35 people have been reported missing.

Residents described fleeing their homes and then getting stuck on gridlocked roads as flames approached, sparking explosions and toppling utility poles. Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby said a "significant number" of homes had been destroyed by the flames but that an accurate count could not yet be made.

In Northern California, a wildfire incinerated most of the town of Paradise, population 30,000.

West of Los Angeles, the Woolsey Fire jumped a major highway and headed into coastal areas, including the town of Malibu where some homes are ablaze.

Three-quarters of the city of 130,000 was under evacuation orders - and that likely included people affected by the shooting, Thousand Oaks Mayor Andy Fox said.

"Just landed back home and had one hour to pack up and evacuate our home". Firefighters were able to stop the fire at the edge of the city, where evacuation orders remained in place Friday, Cal Fire Cpt. "God is good. I'm just praying everyone is safe" she wrote.

These are firestorms - towering, fast-moving walls of flames hundreds of feet high - the kind of fires that are not only uncontrolled by firefighters, but uncontrollable.

Calabasas and Malibu are home to numerous celebrities and some have been posting on social media, including reality TV star Kim Kardashian.

Two wildfires have burned tens of thousands of acres since Thursday, and now mass evacuations are underway outside Los Angeles.

"Our scientists and toxicologists have reviewed information about the fire's location and do not believe the fire has caused any releases of hazardous materials that would pose a risk to people exposed to the smoke", the statement read.

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