A raging wildfire in Northern California that swelled in size overnight has killed two people and injured at least three firefighters, officials said Friday.
The Carr Fire in Shasta County has since claimed the lives of a bulldozer operator and a city of Redding firefighter, according to officials from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, the U.S. National Park Service and the Shasta County Sheriff’s Office.
The “mechanical failure of a vehicle” ignited the blaze in Whiskeytown Monday, officials said. The fire had burned an area of more than 44,000 acres by Friday morning, with a containment of just 3 percent, ABC News reports.
The flames ripped through northwest Shasta County then spread southeast, sweeping across the Sacramento River overnight and roaring toward the city limits of Redding, which is home to 92,000.
At least 15 homes, businesses and other structures have been destroyed by the fast-moving fire, while five others have been damaged. Another 496 structures remain threatened, officials said.
The blaze is “taking everything down in its path,” and the situation on the scene is “very dynamic” and “a heck of a fight,” Scott McLean, a spokesman for the crews battling the Carr Fire, told AP News.
Gusty winds reaching 60 mph are fanning the flames and creating fire tornadoes, or “firenadoes,” that move erratically and are strong enough to overturn vehicles “like toys,” McLean told reporters at a news conference late Thursday.
Officials have ordered road closures and the evacuation of thousands of homes threatened by the Carr Fire. The California Highway Patrol is going door to door to assist, Sgt. Tim Hinkson told reporters.
The blaze has crossed the Sacramento River and now threatens hundreds of homes on the western fringes of the city of Redding, fire officials said.
“The fire is moving so fast that law enforcement is doing evacuations as fast as we can. There have been some injuries to civilians and firefighters,” California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Scott McLean told the Sacramento Bee newspaper.
“It’s way too dynamic and burning quickly.”
Local and state fire officials were not available to confirm details of injuries.
Roads out of the city of 90,000 people were jammed with motorists trying to escape the flames.
More than 1,700 firefighters were battling the blaze, Cal Fire said in an evening advisory.
“Right now they’re doing what they can, they’re trying to make a stand where they can, if possible,” McLean said. “It’s extreme. It’s blowing up off and on again.”
California Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in Shasta and Riverside Counties on Thursday over the Carr and Cranston fires, which were being supercharged by temperatures above 100 degrees F (37 C), erratic winds and low humidity.
James E Windsor, Overpasses News Desk
July 27th, 2018