Firefighters struggle to contain deadly California wildfires
Hot conditions and strong winds are making tackling the flames an impossible task.
Fire crews are facing several weather uncertainties as they struggle to contain a deadly blaze in Northern California that has led to the evacuation of thousands of people.
Firefighters are enduring hot temperatures and remain wary of the possibility of gusty winds, Anthony Romero, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said.
“Right now it’s going everywhere,” he said. “We still have a lot of open line. Any event could bring this back up again.”
The National Weather Service on Sunday forecast hot and dry conditions in the area, with wind gusts expected late in the afternoon.
Anna Noland, 49, was evacuated twice in three days before learning through video footage on Saturday that the house she last saw under dark and windy skies had burned.
She plans to stay at a shelter at Simpson College in Redding while she searches for another place to live.
“I think I’m still in shock,” she said. “It’s just unbelievable knowing you don’t have a house to go back to.”
Ms Noland is among 38,000 people evacuated after the so-called Carr Fire roared into the outskirts of Redding in Shasta County, leaving five people dead including two firefighters, a woman and her two great-grandchildren.
“My babies are dead,” Sherry Bledsoe said through tears after she and family members met with police on Saturday.
A vehicle problem ignited the fire on Monday, but it wasn’t until Thursday that the fire exploded and raced into communities west of Redding before entering city limits.
On Saturday, it pushed south-west of Redding, the largest city in the region, towards the tiny communities of Ono, Igo and Gas Point, where scorching heat, winds and bone-dry conditions complicated firefighting efforts.
The blaze has grown to 139 square miles and now threatens more than 5,000 structures and is said to be just 5% contained.
The latest tally showed 517 destroyed structures and another 135 damaged, Mr Romero said, with the vast majority believed to be homes.
Ms Bledsoe’s two children, James Roberts, five, and Emily Roberts, four, were stranded with their great-grandmother Melody Bledsoe, 70, when walls of flames swept through the family’s rural property on Thursday in the outskirts of Redding.
The three were among more than a dozen people reported missing after the furious wind-driven blaze took residents by surprise and levelled several neighbourhoods.
Shasta County Sheriff Tom Bosenko said he expects to find several of those people alive and just out of touch with loved ones. Officers have gone to the homes of several people reported missing and found their cars are not there – a strong indication they fled.
Wildfires around the state have forced roughly 50,000 people from their homes, officials said, and 12,000 firefighters are currently tackling 17 significant fires in California.
About 100 miles south-west of Redding, two blazes that prompted mandatory evacuations in Mendocino County burn largely unchecked.
Those fires are threatening more than 4,500 buildings, and have consumed 39 square miles.
Authorities have also issued evacuation orders in Napa County, famous for its wine, after a fire destroyed eight structures.
In addition, major fires continue to burn outside Yosemite National Park and in the San Jacinto Mountains east of Los Angeles near Palm Springs. Those fires have burned nearly 100 square miles.