Deadly Northern California wildfire almost doubles in size overnight

30 July, 2018, 14:36 | Author: Clarence Schmidt
  • The Carr Fire burns along Highway 299 in Redding Calif. on Thursday

The victims identified by relatives on Facebook and in news media reports were James Roberts, 5, his sister Emily, 4, and their great grandmother, Melody Bledsoe, 70.

However, experts say this has been the worst start to the fire season in 10 years - partly due to the 2012-2017 drought that killed off large amounts of vegetation.

Carr native, Liz Williams, described the terror she felt as she attempted to evacuate her home.

Some 3,400 firefighters on the ground and in helicopters and airplanes battled the 48,300-acre (19,500 hectares) Carr Fire early on Saturday as it ripped through Redding, with a population of 90,000 people, in California's scenic Shasta-Trinity area.

Among the missing were two children and their great-grandmother who were stranded at a rural home when the fire blew up Thursday night, jumped the wide Sacramento River into Redding and leveled several neighborhoods.

The 45-square-mile fire that began Monday tripled in size overnight Thursday amid scorching temperatures, low humidity and windy conditions. "But these are impacting communities - and they're large fires, not small". The winds that aided firefighters in keeping the flames from more populated areas were propelling it forward at a frightening rate.

Wildfires around the state have forced roughly 50,000 people from their homes, said Lynne Tolmachoff, a Cal Fire spokeswoman. "This fire is moving, at times, three or four different directions".

Around 12,000 firefighters battled Sunday to contain wildfires in California that have killed six people - but authorities warned "erratic" winds and dry conditions have caused the flames to grow and spread. A count by The Associated Press found at least 300 of those structures were homes.

About 60 kilometres southwest of Redding, two blazes prompted mandatory evacuations in Mendocino County. Residents in some neighboring Lake County communities have also been told to leave their homes.

Six people people were killed and seven remain missing as a wildfire in Northern California that burned hundreds of structures grew to almost 90,000 acres Sunday.

Firefighters discuss plans while battling the Carr Fire in Shasta Calif. on Thursday
Firefighters discuss plans while battling the Carr Fire in Shasta Calif. on Thursday

Donald Trump has declared an emergency in California, allowing counties affected by the wildfires to receive federal assistance. The affiliate said a gas line burst in the neighborhood, leaving the family little time to escape.

As of Sunday, evacuation orders were lifted for Idyllwild and Pine Cove. The Ferguson Fire near Yosemite, which has charred 46,675 acres, was 29 percent contained. Parts of the park are closed until at least week's end, and park officials say visitors elsewhere should expect "poor air quality and visibility".

The Carr Fire is among 17 major fires blazing in California with more than 200,000 acres burning, the National Park Service told a news conference. So far this year, wildfires have scorched nearly 4.3 million acres (1.7 million hectares) across the country, less than last year but still more than the 3.7 million-acre (1.5 million-hectare) average for the same period over the last decade.

On Saturday morning, the Carr fire barreled toward the towns of Igo and Ono, prompting new evacuations. One of the homes lost belonged to Shyla and Jason Campbell.

Firefighter Scott Brown sprays water on a backfire while battling the Carr Fire in Redding, Calif., on Saturday.

The family spent the night at a hotel.

"I tried to call them back and it just went to nothing", Bledsoe said as he wept. She said she nearly grabbed a box of mementos - trinkets, diaries, ticket stubs from her favorite movies - but then thought it would take up too much room in the vehicle.

"I said 'I'm on my way.' So I just throwed down everything and took off", he said.

Redding Police Chief Roger Moore kept up an around-the-clock work schedule despite learning that his home was one of those destroyed.


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