No one is left in Paradise. Abandoned, charred vehicles clutter the main thoroughfare, evidence of the panicked evacuation a day earlier as a wildfire tore through the Northern California community.
Nine people have been found dead. Entire neighborhoods are leveled. The business district is destroyed.
In one day, this Sierra Nevada foothill town of 27,000 founded in the 1800s was largely incinerated by flames that moved so fast there was nothing firefighters could do.
The blaze that started Thursday outside the hilly town of Paradise has grown to 404 square kilometres and destroyed more than 6700 buildings, almost all of them homes, making it California's most destructive wildfire since record-keeping began.
But crews have made gains and the fire is partially contained, officials said today.
The dead were found inside their cars and outside vehicles or homes after a desperate evacuation that Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea called "the worst-case scenario". Their identities were not yet known.
"It is what we feared for a long time," Sheriff Honea said, noting that there was no time to go door to door.
With fires also burning in Southern California , state officials put the total number of people forced from their homes at more than 200,000.
Evacuation orders included the entire city of Malibu, which is home to 13,000, among them some of Hollywood's biggest stars.
US President Donald Trump issued an emergency declaration providing federal funding for Butte, Ventura and Los Angeles counties.
He later threatened to withhold federal payments to California, claiming its forest management is "so poor".
Mr Trump tweeted today that "there is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly fires in California".
Mr Trump said "billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests. Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!"
The fire in Paradise, about 290 kilometres northeast of San Francisco, was still burning out of control.
A thick, yellow haze hung in the air, giving the appearance of twilight in the middle of the day. Some of the "majestic oaks" the town touts on its website still have fires burning in their trunks. Thick wooden posts holding up guardrails continued to burn.
An evacuation order Thursday set off a desperate exodus, with frantic motorists getting stuck in gridlocked traffic. Many abandoned their vehicles to flee on foot as the flames bore down on all sides.
"The fire was so close I could feel it in my car through rolled-up windows," Rita Miller, who fled Paradise with her mother said.
The town, situated on a ridge between two valleys, was a popular retirement community, raising concerns about elderly and immobile residents who have been reported missing.
The bucolic country landscape dotted with bay and oak trees will take years to recover.
In the town's central shopping area, there was little left but rubble.
St. Nicolas Church still stands, a rare exception. The nearby New Life church is gone. An unblemished Burger King sign rises above a pile of charred rubble.
Only blackened debris remains behind the Happy Garden Chinese Restaurant sign touting its sushi. Seven burned out Mercedes chassis are all that's left of Ernst Mercedes Specialist lot. City Hall survived. But the Moose Lodge and Chamber of Commerce buildings didn't.
The town's 100-bed hospital is still standing, but two of its smaller buildings, including an outpatient clinic, are flattened.
The Adventist Feather River Hospital evacuated its 60 patients, but some were forced back by clogged roads. All of them eventually made it out.
People in Paradise, like so many in California, have become accustomed to wildfires, and many said they were well-prepared.
They kept their gutters clean, some kept pumps in their swimming pools and had fire hoses. But the ferocity and speed of this blaze overwhelmed those preparations.
Drought, warmer weather attributed to climate change and home construction deeper into forests have led to more destructive wildfire seasons that have been starting earlier and lasting longer.
Just 160 kilometres north of Paradise, the sixth most destructive wildfire in California history hit in July and August and was also one of the earliest.
Called the Carr Fire, near Redding, it killed eight people, burned about 1100 homes and consumed 927 square kilometres before it was contained.
© Nine Digital Pty Ltd 2018