California fire kills two as firefighters struggle to contain blaze

‘It is moving faster than we though’: California emergency responders say they are struggling to contain massive wildfire that has killed two firefighters and left thousands homeless

  • An estimated 37,000 people have fled a the Carr Fire as it continues to tear through an area of northern California after tripling in size to 28,000 acres
  • Late Thursday, crews found the body of a bulldozer operator who had fought to contain the fierce blaze and reported Friday that a firefighter has also been killed, bringing the death toll to two 
  • The wildfire crossed the Sacramento River and now threatens hundreds of homes on the western fringes of the city of Redding and officials say it is only three per cent contained 
  • ‘It’s just chaotic. It’s wild. There’s a lot of fire, a lot of structures burning,’ said Scott McLean, a Cal Fire spokesman for the crews battling the wildfire 

An explosive wildfire that roared with little warning into a Northern California city claimed a second life and thousands more people abandoned their homes, some of them slipping out just ahead of the walls of flame, authorities said Friday.

A firefighter with the Redding Fire Department was killed in Shasta County. Another firefighter hired to try to contain the flames with a bulldozer was killed Thursday, authorities said.

In all, an estimated 37,000 people have fled from the so-called Carr Fire, which began Monday and tripled in size overnight Thursday amid scorching temperatures, low humidity and high winds. 

Fire officials warned that the blaze would probably burn deeper into urban areas before there was any hope of containing it. 

A day earlier, the flames turned the sky orange while sweeping through the historic Gold Rush town of Shasta and nearby Keswick, then jumping the Sacramento River into Redding, a city of about 92,000 people and the largest in the region.

A sudden flare up early Friday morning caught this house on fire along highway 299 in Redding California as firefighters fight to contain the blaze 

Two firefighters have dies in the blaze. Pictured is a view of a row of homes that were destroyed by the Carr Fire on July 27

A CalFire firefighter douses flames on a burning home during the Carr fire in Redding, California

A woman, who declined to give her name, surveys damage to her grandmother’s house after the Carr Fire burned through Redding, California 

Flames have swept through the communities of Shasta and Keswick before jumping the Sacramento River and reaching Redding, a city of about 90,000 people and the largest in the region

Information from the City of Redding showing mandatory evacuation zones as of 4am local time on Friday (in red), alongside data from energy company Pacific Gas and Electricity showing areas inaccessible due to the fire as of 1am local time

Steve Hobson was one of the last to leave Lake Redding Drive. A former urban and wild land firefighter three decades ago, he planned to stay behind to save his house. 

But the heat burned his skin, and the smoke made it hard to breathe. He could feel the fire sucking the air from the around him, whipping up swirling embers in a ‘fire tornado,’ he said.

Police pounded on doors telling everyone to leave.

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The flames on the distant hillside looked like solar flares on the sun, he said. When it came time to flee, he had to punch through walls of burning embers on both sides of the street. A tree fell right in front of him.

‘I didn’t know if I’d make it so I just got in the middle of the street, went down the middle of the street through the embers and the smoke and made it past,’ Hobson said.

His perimeter fence burned along with a backyard shed and everything inside it – Christmas ornaments, china and old televisions. But his house made it through the harrowing night.

Firefighters discuss plans while battling the Carr Fire in Shasta, California, on Thursday, July 26, 2018

The Carr Fire burns along Highway 299 in Shasta, California, on Thursday

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    This Thursday, July 26, 2018 image captured by NASA’s Terra satellite, shows actively burning California wildfires (outlined in red) detected by MODISís thermal bands

    A firefighter walks past a home destroyed by the Carr Fire on Sunriver Lane in Redding, California.  A spokesman says the number of homes and structures threatened by the Northern California wildfire has increased after the fire exploded overnight

    Officials say the extremely erratic wildfire in and around the city of Redding is growing rapidly amid scorching temperatures, low humidity and windy conditions.

    At least 65 structures have been destroyed, and 5,000 other buildings were threatened, fire officials said.

    The fire is ‘taking down everything in its path,’ said Scott McLean, a CalFire spokesman for the crews battling the blaze.

    Some Redding residents who had not been under evacuation orders were caught off guard and had to flee with little notice.

    ‘When it hit, people were really scrambling,’ McLean said. ‘There was not much of a warning.’

    The blaze, which was apparently sparked by a mechanical issue involving a vehicle, was so fearsome that fire crews in Redding for a time abandoned any hope of containing the flames and instead focused on saving lives.

    ‘We’re not fighting a fire. We’re trying to move people out of the path of it because it is now deadly, and it is now moving at speeds and in ways we have not seen before in this area,’ said Jonathan Cox, battalion chief with Cal Fire. 

    Cal Fire crews work to control and slow the fire as it backs into the containment line. The goal is to not extinguish the fire but to control it so that it burns slowly. Preventing further flare-ups is the goal

    A structure burns as the Carr Fire races along Highway 299 

    The Carr fire is pictured as forms along highway 299 between Whiskeytown and Redding

    The fire is pictured blazing through the banks of Whiskeytown Lake 

    A water tender operator drinks a beverage after trying to save a home burning in Shasta. One person was killed in a rapidly moving wildfire that sent residents fleeing from a northern California city on Friday as homes and businesses burned and power was cut, fire officials said

    The wildfire crossed the Sacramento River and now threatens hundreds of homes on the western fringes of the city of Redding

    Late Thursday, crews found the body of the bulldozer operator. He was the second bulldozer operator killed in a California blaze in less than two weeks.

    ‘It’s just chaotic. It’s wild,’ McLean said. ‘There’s a lot of fire, a lot of structures burning.’

    Firefighters tried in vain to build containment around the blaze Thursday, but flames kept jumping their lines, he said.

    Brett Gouvea, incident commander of the crews battling the fire, urged residents to pay close attention to the blaze, which he said was ‘moving with no regard for what’s in its path.’

    With fire burning in the distance Liz Williams, 33, packed her car Thursday morning, just in case, even though her neighbors said it would never reach them.

    burned out classic car sits next to a home that was destroyed by the Carr Fire, the fire is three per cent contained

    A real estate sign is seen in front of a burning home during the Carr Fire in Redding, California on July 27. Firefighters tried in vain to build containment around the blaze on Thursday but flames kept jumping their lines

    A residence burns as the Carr Fire tears through Shasta. More than 1,700 firefighters have been battling the blaze, Cal Fire said in an evening advisory

    When Williams got home from work, the flames were closing in. By evening, an orange glow appeared on the nearby hillside and ferocious winds picked up. It was time to go.

    ‘I’ve never experienced something so terrifying in my life. Nothing could prepare you for something like this,’ Williams said.

    She loaded up her 11-year-old daughter and her boyfriend’s 9-year-old, but she didn’t get far. She was promptly stuck in traffic as all her neighbors crowded the main road out. Cars honked and backed up. Drivers and police yelled at each other.

    As flames came down the adjacent hillside, she got aggressive.

    ‘Finally I just went to the left and jumped up on the sidewalk and drove,’ Williams said.

    She estimated that it took an hour to go a little over a mile. She wanted to get as far away as possible, but ultimately stayed with her boyfriend’s family in a safer part of town.

    ‘I didn’t know if the fire was just going to jump out behind a bush and grab me and suck me in,’ Williams said. ‘I wanted out of here.’

    A couple, who declined to give their names, passes homes leveled by the Carr Fire in Redding, California, on Friday

    A firefighter sprays water on a home leveled by the Carr Fire on Sunriver Lane in Redding, California 

    A firefighter works to battle the Carr Fire at a home in Redding, California

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