Two firefighters have now lost their lives as a fast-growing California wildfire has forced mass evacuations, destroyed hundreds of homes and businesses and ripped through more than 17,000 hectares of bushland.
A bulldozer operator was killed while working with fire teams clearing scrubland on Friday (Thursday local time) as gale-force winds created a fire “tornado” which uprooted trees, moved parked cars and broke up sections of road, according to Reuters.
And on Saturday (Friday local time) a member of the Redding Fire Department, Inspector Jeremy Stoke, was also killed.
“With heavy hearts we announce the passing of Fire Inspector Jeremy Stoke. Jeremy died while battling the Carr Fire,” the department posted on Twitter.
“We ask for your thoughts and prayers for his family and the RFD as we process this tragic loss.”
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
A Redding hospital said it had treated eight people, including three firefighters.
California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire) spokesman Scott McLean said firefighters and police “went into life-safety mode” hustling door-to-door to get residents out of harm’s way.
Streets in the badly affected town of Redding were all but deserted, with thick, sickly-brown smoke filling the air.
CalFire Director Ken Pimlott describe the fire conditions as “extreme”.
“These are extreme conditions, this is how fires are in California,” he said. “We need to take heed and evacuate, evacuate, evacuate.”
Governor Jerry Brown requested emergency federal assistance to prevent an “imminent catastrophe” as local officials tried to find supplies and water for 30,000 evacuated residents and care for horses and cattle rescued from ranches and farms.
CalFire reported 65 structures destroyed by the blaze, but Mr McLean called that tally a “placeholder” figure that would grow significantly, with the number of homes lost likely to run into “the hundreds.
“ The fire scorched 18,000 hectares by Friday and was just three per cent contained as ground crews, helicopters and airplanes battled the flames for a fifth day. ”
“High temperatures and low humidity were expected for the next seven to ten days, Mr Pimlott said. ”This fire is a long way from done.”
— Eli (@EliTurnerr) July 28, 2018
Local Rob Wright, 61, and his wife stayed to fight off flames with a high-powered water hose.
“We were fortunate enough that the wind changed hours ago, and it is pushing the fire back,” said Wright. ”We are just waiting it out … crossing our fingers and hoping for the best.”
A huge forest fire continued to grow outside Yosemite National Park on Thursday.
Hundreds of kilometres to the south, the Cranston Fire, believed to have been started by arson, grew to 1900 hectares and about 3000 residents remained under evacuation orders.
California Governor Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency in Shasta and Riverside counties over the Carr and Cranston fires, which were being supercharged by temperatures above 37 degrees, erratic winds and low humidity.