Seventeen people were missing on Saturday as a monster wildfire in Northern California spread after killing two firefighters, destroying hundreds of buildings and sending tens of thousands of frantic residents fleeing from their homes.
More than 38,000 people in Redding and elsewhere in Shasta County have been ordered to leave their homes from the 80,900-acre (32,740-hectare) Carr Fire, which has destroyed at least 500 homes and businesses. Officials warned further evacuation orders were possible.
Some 3,400 firefighters on the ground and in 17 helicopters were battling the fire, which was just 5 percent contained as it ripped through Redding, a city of 90,000 people, in California's scenic Shasta-Trinity area. It has left Keswick, a town of 450, in smoldering ruins, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said.
Another 5,000 buildings are threatened, Cal Fire said.
Law enforcement officials are currently trying to locate 17 people reported missing, but noted that the number of missing has fluctuated in recent days as new people are reported missing and others located, Redding Police Sergeant Todd Cogle said by telephone.
"We don't want to give the impression that all these people have suffered some kind of grave circumstances," Cogle said. "We sent officers to some of these places (where they lived) and the houses were intact, so it's more than likely those people just evacuated."
There are currently 89 large wildfires blazing across 14 U.S. states, mostly in the West, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.
So far this year, wildfires have scorched almost 4.3 million acres (1.7 million hectares) across the United States, above the 3.7 million-acre (1.5 million-hectare) average for the same period over the last decade.
Some 1,100 people crowded into an evacuation center at Shasta College, outside Redding, one of several shelters that officials said reached full capacity on Saturday.
The fire, which started on Monday afternoon, has been fed by hot, dry weather and high winds. Temperatures were forecast to reach 109 Fahrenheit (42.8 Celsius) on Saturday, with winds of up to 8 miles per hour (13 kph), according to the National Weather Service.
Other major wildfires were raging about 110 miles (177 km) east of Los Angeles and near Yosemite National Park, which closed due to the blaze.
Deadly Northern California wildfire nearly doubles in size overnight originally appeared on abcnews.go.com
A fast-moving wildfire in Northern California that has killed two people almost doubled in size overnight, officials said Saturday.
The Carr Fire in Shasta County had burned an area of more than 80,000 acres by Saturday morning, with a containment of still just 5 percent. The magnitude of the blaze jumped from around 48,000 acres Friday night, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
Firefighters worked "aggressively" throughout the night to try to contain the flames, officials said, but the fire has been "active in all directions and has made significant runs." Gusty winds, high temperatures and dry vegetation still have the potential to spur fire growth.
The "mechanical failure of a vehicle" ignited the Carr Fire in Whiskeytown on Monday, officials said. The flames ripped through northwest Shasta County then spread southeast, sweeping across the Sacramento River late Thursday and roaring toward the city limits of Redding, which is home to 92,000.
The blaze has 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. At least three firefighters have sustained injuries.
A total of 3,410 personnel are working to contain the fire, along with 328 fire engines, 17 helicopters and 62 bulldozers.
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, officials have told reporters.
At least 500 homes, businesses and other structures have been destroyed by the raging blaze, while 75 others have been damaged. Nearly 5,000 other structures remain threatened, officials said.
Scott McLean, a spokesman for the crews battling the Carr Fire, told reporters that winds reaching 60 mph were fanning the flames and creating fire tornadoes, or "firenadoes," that move erratically and are strong enough to overturn vehicles "like toys."
The deadly Carr Fire burning in Northern California continues to threaten thousands of homes in Redding, California, after nearly doubling in size on Friday night.
The raging inferno has killed two people since igniting on Monday, July 23, after the mechanical failure of a vehicle, according to Cal Fire.
On Thursday, a bulldozer operator was killed while working to clear vegetation in the path of the blaze, according to a statement from Cal Fire. Three firefighters have suffered burns.
Officials announced early Friday that a Redding city firefighter had died battling the blaze.
With heavy hearts we announce the passing of Fire Inspector Jeremy Stoke. Jeremy died while battling the Carr Fire. We ask for your thoughts and prayers for his family and the RFD as we process this tragic loss. More information will be released as it becomes available. pic.twitter.com/3adHIkDepV
— Redding Firefighters (@reddingff_1934) July 27, 2018
The wildfire, which has consumed over 80,000 acres with minimal containment, jumped the Sacramento River on Thursday night and headed toward the city of Redding, which is home to nearly 92,000 people.
The erratic nature of the blaze has made the fire difficult to contain.
"[The Carr Fire] was moving all over the place," Mike Mohler, deputy communications director for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, told the Los Angeles Times.
AccuWeather meteorologist and volunteer firefighter Evan Duffey is concerned that the fire can continue to create its own weather and more hazards and strains for firefighters.
"Given the high temperatures in the region reaching well in the 100s and how dry it has been, the chances of extreme fire danger are high," Duffey said.
"Rapidly rising air caused by the extreme heat helps the fire to grow explosively as the fire will create its own wind, as well as fire vortices (firenadoes) and tree crowning (when the leaves get engulfed by flames), even on otherwise calm days."
No relief from the triple-digit heat is expected to come to Redding or the neighboring lower elevations this weekend or next week. In addition to the threat of more evacuations, residents will have to contend with smoke creating poor air quality.
It is best to limit time outdoors and avoid strenuous activities amid the smoky conditions. It is especially important that the elderly, children and those with respiratory issues follow these precautions.