2 dead, thousands flee their homes as California wildfire rages

The Carr Fire burns along Highway 299 in Redding Calif. on Thursday

Noland is among the 38,000 people evacuated after the so-called Carr Fire roared into the outskirts of Redding in Shasta County, leaving five people dead, including two firefighters, a woman and her two great-grandchildren. Brian Hughes was struck by a tree while removing brush in an effort to contain the fire, according to officials.

About 160 kilometres northeast, officials near Redding struck a hopeful tone for the first time in days as a massive fire slowed following days of explosive growth.

A destroyed auto is seen among the ruins of a burned neighborhood after the Carr Fire passed through the area of Lake Keswick Estates near Redding, Calif., on July 28.

CalFire Director Ken Pimlott described the fire activity at a news conference on Friday as nearly like a "tornado".

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 was not released. Officers have gone to homes of several people reported missing and found cars gone - a strong indication they fled.

Greg and Terri Hill evacuated their Redding home of 18 years Thursday night with their medications, photo albums, clothes and firearms, assuming they'd be back in a few days.

Some 3,400 firefighters are battling what is being called the Carr Fir fire, which is growing "uncontrollably" and closing in on homes as high winds and triple-digit temperatures drive flames through bone-dry vegetation.

A vehicle problem ignited the fire July 23, but it wasn't until Thursday that the blaze exploded in size and raced into populated areas west of Redding before entering city limits.

At least 517 buildings have been destroyed and a further 135 damaged, according to the latest figures. On Friday an Associated Press reporter counted at least 125 burned homes.

A house burns during the Carr fire in Redding, California on July 27, 2018. He could feel the fire sucking the air from around him, whipping up swirling embers in a "fire tornado", he said.

"I talked to them until the fire got them", he was quoted as saying.

More than 5,012 structures were threatened by the fire, officials said. The fires that began Friday are burning about 120 miles southwest of Redding.

Firefighters discuss plans while battling the Carr Fire in Shasta Calif. on Thursday
Firefighters discuss plans while battling the Carr Fire in Shasta Calif. on Thursday

"They go into the steepest of the steep, the most rugged of the rugged areas", said Mike Theune, a spokesman with the parks. But then he composed himself.

The nearby town of Keswick, with a population of about 450, was reduced to cinders. "I didn't think for a second that we would lose our home", she said. He said his crew would be looking for anything salvageable, but there was little left standing.

Crews attacking the Carr fire in and around Redding said they had located another body - the fourth civilian to perish in that blaze. The flames were just five per cent contained, though Gouvea said he expected that number to climb.

An 81-year-old bulldozer operator named Don Ray Smith and a fire inspector with the Redding Fire Department named Jeremy Stoke were also killed in the Carr Fire.

A bulldozer operator as well as a member of the Redding Fire Department were killed in the blaze.

More than 3,000 firefighters were battling the blaze, which had grown to 140 square miles.

"We didn't think the fire was going to come here, so we didn't really take things out like everyone else that was scrambling at the last minute to get out when we saw fire on the ridge", Dominic Galvin said.

"We're trying to get the heavy fuels down away from the line so we'll have less chance of embers crossing the line".

Among the missing were two children and their great-grandmother who were stranded at a rural home when the fire blew up Thursday night, jumped the wide Sacramento River into Redding and leveled several neighborhoods.

Officials said police were responding to looting incidents in evacuated neighbourhoods. The blaze had blackened 150 acres and was at 10 percent containment.

Another firefighter hired as a contractor, was also killed fighting the fire. He had been with California's Arrowhead Interagency Hotshots for four years and reached the rank of captain.

As of Sunday, evacuation orders were lifted for Idyllwild and Pine Cove.

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