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California wildfires toll rises as two children found dead

The children and their great-grandmother died in the city of Redding.

Two young children and their great-grandmother have died in a wildfire that has devastated parts of northern California.

Sherry Bledsoe confirmed the deaths of her grandmother, Melody Bledsoe, and her children, James Roberts, five, and Emily Roberts, four, after the fire swept into the city of Redding.

A bulldozer operator who died working to contain the fire was identified as an 81-year-old man from a small community east of Sacramento.

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Sherry Bledsoe, left, cries next to her sister, Carla, after hearing news that her children died (Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP)

The fatalities brought the death toll to five since the so-called Carr Fire started burning on Monday. It exploded on Thursday, jumped the Sacramento River and then entered Redding city.

The bulldozer operator was identified by the Shasta County Sheriff’s Department as Don Ray Smith of Pollock Pines. He was overtaken by flames while working and his body was found on Thursday.

Authorities previously identified another dead firefighter as Redding Fire Department Inspector Jeremy Stoke, who was killed on Thursday night.

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A firefighter monitors flames from the advancing wildfire (Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP)

The Bledsoes lived near the Keswick Estates neighbourhood and their home, like many around it, was reduced to ashes. The tragedy leaves Ed Bledsoe without his wife and the great-grandchildren he doted on.

“He lost everything. Everything. You can’t lose more than family. And then you lose everything on top of that?” said Don Kewley, whose girlfriend is one of the Bledsoes’ granddaughters. “The man’s got the shirt on his back and the pants on his waist. Like that’s it.”

Ed Bledsoe had headed out for supplies on Thursday thinking the flames were far away, but while shopping he received a desperate call from his great-grandson. The boy said he had to come back to the home.

“We need your help,” the boy said, according to Jason Decker, who is the boyfriend of another Bledsoe granddaughter.

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