At least 44 people have been killed and more than 200 are missing

At least 44 people have been killed as devastating wildfires continue to burn in California.

More than 200 people are missing and it is feared the number of deaths could rise much higher.

Some remains were found next to cars, with authorities guessing the victims had been overcome by smoke and flames before they could get in their vehicles and drive to safety.

Coroners found charred bone fragments so small that they had to be sifted through a sieve-like wire basket.

Winds are increasing again - hampering efforts by emergency crews who are struggling to contain the spread.

A firefighter battles wildfire in Simi Valley, California, 12-11-2018. Image:  Qian Weizhong/Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

Fire Chief Mark Lorenzen said more fires could erupt at any time due as the State continues to experience “significant fire weather.”

Over three dozen people were killed in the popular retirement community of Paradise in the north of the state.

Overnight, fire crews tackling the blaze that obliterated the town fought against 65kph winds and towering 300ft flames.

Butte County Search and Rescue worker Noelle Francis, left, and search dog Spinner look through the ashes for survivors and remains in Paradise, California, 12-11-2018. Image:  Hector Amezcua/AP/Press Association Images

Tad Teays was waiting to find out information on his 90-year-old mother who has dementia, while Darlina Duarte was desperate for information about her half-brother, a diabetic who was largely housebound because he had lost his legs.

And Barbara Hall tried in vain to find out whether her aunt and aunt's husband, who are in their 80s and 90s, made it out alive from their retirement community.

Greg Woodcox, who led a caravan of vehicles that was overcome by flames, said he heard screams and watched a friend die as the heat blew out the vehicle's windows.

Mr Woodcox told the San Francisco Chronicle he was in a Jeep ahead of the other vehicles and ran when the flames overtook them.

He followed a fox down a steep embankment and survived by submerging himself in a stream for nearly an hour.