California.- Fire crews facing several weather uncertainties Sunday struggled to corral a deadly blaze in Northern California that has left thousands of dazed evacuees reeling as they to take care of themselves, their families and even pets. Firefighters endured hot temperatures and remained wary of the possibility of gusty winds, said Anthony Romero, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
“Right now it’s going everywhere. We still have a lot of open line,” he said. He added, “Any event could bring this back up again.” The National Weather Service on Sunday forecast hot and dry conditions in the area, with wind gusts expected late in the afternoon. Anna Noland, 49, was evacuated twice in three days before learning through video footage Saturday that the house she last saw under dark and windy skies had burned. She planned to stay at a shelter at Simpson College in Redding while she searches for another place to live.
“I think I’m still in shock,” Noland said. “It’s just unbelievable knowing you don’t have a house to go back to.” 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. “My babies are dead,” Sherry Bledsoe said through tears after she and family members met with Shasta County sheriff’s deputies Saturday.
A vehicle problem ignited the fire Monday, but it wasn’t until Thursday that the fire exploded and raced into communities west of Redding before entering city limits. On Saturday, it pushed southwest of Redding, the largest city in the region, toward the tiny communities of Ono, Igo and Gas Point, where scorching heat, winds and bone-dry conditions complicated firefighting efforts. The blaze, which grew slightly Sunday to 139 square miles (360 square kilometers), is the largest fire burning in California. More than 5,000 structures were threatened, and the fire was just 5 percent contained.
The latest tally showed 517 destroyed structures and another 135 damaged, Romero said. A count by The Associated Press found at least 300 of those structures were homes. The firefighters killed in the blaze included Don Ray Smith, 81, of Pollock Pines, a bulldozer operator who was helping clear vegetation in the path of the wildfire. Redding fire Inspector Jeremy Stoke was also killed, but details of his death were not released.