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.
“This fire is extremely dangerous and moving with no regard for what’s in its path,” said Incident Cmdr. Bret Gouvea with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
A local television station, KRCR News, cut off its live coverage so that anchors and other employees could evacuate the studio.
“The fire is extremely active tonight,” said Cal Fire Capt. John Clingingsmith Jr.
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 was the second firefighting death in California in recent weeks. Braden Varney, a bulldozer operator with Cal Fire, died fighting the Ferguson fire near Yosemite.
“As we mourn the loss, we also battle a fire that is moving extremely quickly and erratically into western Redding,” Gouvea said, adding that other firefighters and civilians have been injured.
“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 late Thursday, authorities expanded evacuation orders to include the following areas:
- North of Sacramento River to Keswick Dam Road, west of Market Street and Lake Boulevard to Keswick Dam
- North at Lake Boulevard and Oasis Road to Pine Grove Avenue and Walker Mine Road, west of Cascade Road and Interstate 5.
- South along Swasey Drive from State Route 299 to Placer Road.
- West along Placer Road from Swasey to Prospect Drive
- North from Prospect Drive to encompass Middle Park Ranch Land area.
- West of Overhill Drive and north of State Route 299
- North of State Route 299 and west of Spinmaker Road to the end of Harlan Drive.
- Keswick Dam east to Counter Lane and north to Quartz Hill Road.
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% 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% 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.