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Devastating fire sweeps into Redding, California; numerous homes lost, 1 dead

Firefighters work to contain a structure fire as wildfire spreads along North Fairview Avenue in Goleta, Calif., on Saturday, July 7, 2018. (Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

A devastating brush fire barreled into the city of Redding, Calif., Thursday night, killing one person and destroying numerous structures as residents ran for their lives.

The fire destroyed at least 15 structures in Shasta County, but that number is expected to rise as the blaze moved toward subdivisions and other populated areas. Officials were urging residents to flee the path of the fire, where hundreds of homes were under threat.

It was a chaotic scene across Redding, a city of 90,000 people, as towering flames whipped along the horizon and evacuation orders expanded by the hour.

A local television station, KRCR News, cut off its live coverage so anchors and other employees could evacuate the studio.

“The fire is extremely active tonight,” said Capt. John Clingingsmith Jr. with California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

A private bulldozer operator, who was not named, was killed late Thursday as the fire grew to more than 28,000 acres, jumping the Sacramento River and roaring toward Redding. It marked the second firefighting death in California in recent weeks. Braden Varney, a bulldozer operator with Cal Fire, died fighting the Ferguson fire near Yosemite.

“Structures are burning,” Scott McLean, spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, told The Sacramento Bee late Thursday. “The fire is moving so fast that law enforcement is doing evacuations as fast as we can. There have been some injuries to civilians and firefighters.”

As fire activity increased Thursday, authorities expanded evacuation orders to include the following areas:

An evacuation center at Shasta High School was closed and a new one was opened at Shasta College, located at 11555 Old Oregon Trail.

Firefighting efforts were hampered Thursday by extreme fire behavior, dry weather and triple-digit temperatures. It’s unclear if the destroyed structures were homes, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Five other structures were damaged.

Crews scrambled when a shift in the winds pushed the Carr fire three miles east in four hours, catching residents in Whiskeytown on their heels. The fire, which broke out Monday afternoon, was only 6 percent contained by Thursday night.

The blaze reached the edge of Whiskeytown Lake, where local news outlets reported that 40 boats were burned along with a number of homes.

Authorities placed 192 homes under mandatory evacuation orders, most of those in Whiskeytown and the community of French Gulch, Cal Fire said.

The blaze has been running along the north side of Highway 299 since a vehicle malfunction sparked it. More than 1,700 firefighters were battling the blaze.

The Carr fire was the most destructive of several major blazes burning around the state. In Riverside County, the Cranston fire burned 7,500 acres and 5 percent contained, easily spotted by the billowy plumes of smoke expanding into the sky. At least five homes were lost.

And near Yosemite, the Ferguson fire continued to burn in wilderness area.


© 2018 Los Angeles Times

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.