The extensive and rapidly spreading Carr Fire in Northern California has claimed at least five lives—including two children and their great-grandmother—while several others remain missing Sunday as officials struggle to contain a blaze that already has destroyed over 89,000 acres.
Crews have contained only 5% of the fire, which doubled in size overnight between Friday and Saturday, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Among the victims are 70-year-old Melody Bledsoe and her two great-grandchildren, ages 5 and 4. According to media reports, the three died Thursday night in their home on the outskirts of Redding, a city of about 92,000 located two and half hours north of Sacramento.
Two firefighters also were killed: bulldozer operator Don Ray Smith, 81, and fire inspector Jeremy Stoke.
According to the Times:
With the unyielding 100-plus degree temperatures and bone-dry vegetation, authorities said there was no end in sight to the fire and expressed particular alarm about its rapid expansion. Between Friday night and Saturday morning, the fire doubled in size. Despite the efforts of 3,400 firefighters aided by bulldozers and helicopters throughout Saturday , the blaze continued spreading toward residential areas west and south of downtown Redding.
Shasta County Fire Chief Mike Hebrard said crews were doing everything they could to “bring an end to this chaos,” the newspaper reported.
In a Facebook post, Bledsoe’s granddaughter, Amanda Woodley, confirmed the deaths of the three family members, saying, “Grandma did everything she could to save them [the children]. [S]he was hovered over them both with a wet blanket.”
The fire started Monday, caused by a vehicle mechanical failure, according to the Times. Some 38,000 people have been displaced so far, and the National Guard has been called in to staff roadblocks. To date, about 500 homes have been damaged or destroyed, and there have been reports of looting.
Speaking to evacuees at a local school, Unified Incident Cmdr. Chief Brett Gouvea said he had “never seen anything like that happen,” referring to the size and speed of the Carr Fire, the Times reported.
Authorities remained optimistic that many of the missing eventually would be accounted for, as several residents had only about 30 minutes to evacuate, leaving their possessions—including cellphones—behind.