Firefighters on Friday were battling several wildfires across Northern California, with one wind-whipped blaze in Butte County destroying at least 20 homes and forcing thousands of residents to flee.
Authorities in Butte County closed all roads to Paradise, a town of about 30-thousand residents some 90 miles north of Sacramento, and ordered nine-thousand residents to leave their homes.
An evacuation shelter was set up in nearby Chico.
A woman, whose identity was not immediately released, suffered a heart attack during the evacuation and died, said Ruben Grijalva, director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
It's the only fatality associated with Northern California fires this month.
The fire, which started on Wednesday, had grown to more than 20-thousand acres and threatened 4,600 structures, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
Twenty homes were confirmed to be destroyed, but officials said that number likely could double once crews were able to better assess the damage.
More than 1,500 firefighters were trying to contain the blaze, which was only 16 percent contained by Friday morning.
Fed by strong, erratic winds on Thursday, the fire spread to the hills of the Butte College campus, where officials had set up an incident command centre, said Cal Fire spokesman Joshpae White.
Firefighters, however, needed to move quickly.
Winds from the southwest were expected to pick up in the afternoon, which could push the flames closer to Paradise, said White, who was one of the firefighters injured a day earlier.
In recent days, hot temperatures, steady winds and tinder-dry vegetation have fuelled a series of destructive blazes from Butte County to the San Francisco Bay area to the Los Padres National Forest.
But 900 firefighters in Santa Cruz County caught a break Friday as cooler temperatures and increased cloud cover helped them battled a wildfire that had destroyed at least 10 homes in the Bonny Doon community, according to Cal Fire.
It was 25 percent contained on Friday morning and had scorched 600 acres.
More than 1,500 residents have been told to evacuate their homes in the heavily forested hills about 10 miles northwest of Santa Cruz since the fire broke out Wednesday afternoon.
California State Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency in Santa Cruz County early on Thursday to free up additional firefighting resources.
He declared one in Butte County late on Wednesday.