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Thousands more flee California wildfires as deadly blaze slows down

Six people are known to have died after wildfires tore through the north of the US state.

Thousands more people have fled their homes after wildfires surged near a small lake town in Northern California.

In all, more than 10,000 people are under mandatory evacuation orders from the two blazes in Mendocino and Lake counties.

Those fires are among 17 burning across the state, where fire crews are stretched to the limit – although the advance of the state’s largest, deadliest blaze has now slowed slightly after days of explosive growth.

A man whose wife and two great-grandchildren are among the six people who died in the so-called Carr Fire, near Redding, California, said he did not receive any warning to evacuate.

Ed Bledsoe told CBS News he did not know his home was in danger when he left his wife, Melody, and the four- and five-year-old children to run an errand on Thursday.

Mr Bledsoe said he received a phone call from his wife 15 minutes later saying he needed to get home because the fire was approaching. He said one of the children told him the blaze was at the back door. When he tried to return, the road was blocked with cars, and flames prevented him from returning on foot.

Firefighters in Keswick, California (Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP)

Shasta County Sheriff Tom Bosenko told the network there is an investigation into whether the Bledsoe home received a warning call or a knock on the home’s door. The sheriff said there is evidence that door-to-door notifications were made in the area.

The latest evacuations included about 1,000 people in Mendocino County.

The rest are in Lake County, where residents of the town of Lakeport, which has a population of 5,000, were ordered to leave on Sunday night. Two other towns with about 5,000 people are also under mandatory evacuation.

A burned vehicle in the mountain community of Keswick (Martha Mendoza/AP)

The two blazes have destroyed six homes and are threatening 10,000 others. The fires had blackened 87 square miles, with minimal containment.

The wildfires that started on Friday are about 100 miles south-west of Redding.

Crews handling the blaze near Redding struck a hopeful tone for the first time in days as the massive fire slowed after days of rapid expansion.

Boats on Whiskeytown Lake (Hector Amezcua/The Sacramento Bee via AP)

“We’re feeling a lot more optimistic today as we’re starting to gain some ground rather than being in a defensive mode on this fire all the time,” said Bret Gouvea, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection’s incident commander on the blaze around Redding.

As of Monday, the Redding fire had destroyed 723 homes, up from a previous count of 657 homes.

Shasta County Sheriff Tom Bosenko said authorities found a sixth victim of the blaze at a home that was consumed by flames, though he declined to say where. The victim’s identity has not been released.

Authorities are also investigating at least 18 missing persons reports, though many of them may simply be people who have not checked in with friends or family, police said.

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