As she fled, Gina Oviedo described a devastating scene in which flames engulfed homes, sparked explosions and toppled utility poles.
A day after a Northern California wildfire forced tens of thousands to evacuate, dozens of people are unaccounted for and relatives are flooding social media with desperate pleas for help finding them.
Another fire to the west has burned more than 9 square miles in Ventura County but has slowed since reaching the footprint of a fire stripped away vegetation in 2013.
Meanwhile firefighters operating bulldozers have been authorised to push cars off the road to clear a path and try to beat back the flames.
'Things started exploding, ' said resident Gina Oviedo.
It is feared some of the dead may be elderly residents who were trapped in their homes.
Kelly Lee called shelters looking for her husband's 93-year-old grandmother, Dorothy Herrera, who was last heard from on Thursday morning.
Mrs Herrera, who lives in Paradise with her 88-year-old husband Lou left a frantic voicemail to family saying they needed to get out.
'We're getting them on other vehicles with room. "They do have a vehicle, but they both are older and can be confused at times". "This is a very risky wind-driven fire". People reported seeing much of the community go up in flames, including homes, supermarkets, businesses, restaurants, schools and a retirement center.
Butte County Sheriff's Office said that four of the dead were found dead in vehicles destroyed by flames and another near a vehicle.
Almost 800 kilometres to the south, a second blaze forced the evacuation of the upscale oceanside city of Malibu and threatened the beleaguered town of Thousand Oaks, where a gunman killed 12 people this week in a rampage in a bar and dance hall.
The entire 12,000 population of Malibu, which stretches 43.5km along the Pacific Ocean in Southern California and up into the Santa Monica mountains, has been placed under mandatory evacuation.
The massive blaze that hit Paradise spread north Friday, prompting officials to order the evacuation of Stirling City and Inskip, two communities north of Paradise along the Sierra Nevada foothills.
Kim Kardashian, Alyssa Milano and Melissa Etheridge were among thousands fleeing from their homes. A blaze is also approaching LA Zoo. One of them, the Western Town at Paramount Ranch where Westworld is filmed, was burned.
With the area still reeling from the shooting at the Thousand Oaks bar, the Hill fire has spread to 10,000 acres, quickly shutting down the 101 Freeway.
"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. "God help us!" she said before breaking down crying.
The Butte County Sheriff's office said the victims had been burned to death in their cars and could not immediately be identified. "We're kind of all shaking right now".