California Wildfires Kill 8, Destroy Nearly 1,000 Structures; 35,000 Ordered to Evacuate

california wildfire

Firefighters were hopeful for the first time in days as a massive fire near Redding, California, slowed after days of explosive growth.

The so-called Carr Fire, burning on the west side of Redding, some 150 miles north of Sacramento, has claimed the lives of six people and destroyed nearly 1,000 structures, including more than 700 homes. More than 35,000 residents were displaced as 154 square miles burned – an area larger than the city of Portland, Oregon.

The Carr Fire was 20 percent contained as of Monday afternoon, according to Cal Fire. The inferno, which still threatens some 5,000 structures, claimed the lives of two firefighters and four civilians – three of which were a 70-year-old great-grandmother, Melody Bledsoe, and two of her great-grandchildren, ages 4 and 5.

Ed Bledsoe, whose wife and two great-grandchildren died in their home, unable to escape when he went out for supplies prior to the mandatory evacuation order, said he tried to get back to rescue them while his wife wrapped the boys in wet blankets in hopes of saving them, he told CBS News.

"I was talking to my grandson on the phone, he was saying, 'Grandpa, please, you gotta come and help us. The fire's at the back door,'" Bledsoe told CBS News. "I said, 'I'm close by, son, I'm trying to get in there.' I said, 'I'm right by you.'"

Seven people remain missing, according to CNN.com.

There are at least 17 large fires burning throughout California; another wildfire, known as the Ferguson Fire, has burned 88 square miles near Yosemite National Park. Two people have died in that fire, which is 30 percent contained.

The park remains closed because of the fire, and has been closed since last week.


"We’ve had 17 fires before," California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection battalion chief and information officer Jonathan Cox told the Los Angeles Times. "But these are impacting communities – and they’re large fires, not small."

Some 18,000 people were ordered to evacuate in Lake and Mendocino counties on Monday as two blazes encroached on several towns surrounding Clear Lake.

Six homes were destroyed, and the fires threaten 10,000 more structures. The wildfires have burned 87 square miles and are 10 percent contained, according to Cal Fire.

Cal Fire Division Chief Charlie Blankenheim told the Associated Press he expected significant growth as the fire pushed into the Mendocino National Forest.

In southwestern Oregon, hundreds were forced to flee Merlin and Grants Pass as lightning sparked a fire that grew to 39 square miles. No structures or homes have been lost, the AP reported.

Weather conditions have been brutal for firefighters, with temperatures soaring into the triple-digits and little to no precipitation. But temperatures have dropped slightly and humidity has increased, giving fire crews hope that they could attack the wildfires and gain containment before conditions turned hostile again.

"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," Bret Gouvea, the Cal Fire incident commander assigned to the Carr Fire, told the AP.

Some evacuation orders were lifted Monday morning for parts of western Redding.

On Saturday, President Donald Trump declared an emergency, which allows counties affected by the fires to receive federal assistance.

Source: weather

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