A wildfire in Northern California is burning out of control. It has scorched hundreds of homes and forced more than 30,000 evacuations. USA TODAY
REDDING, Calif. Ã¢ÂÂ A wildfire roaring out of control Sunday in Northern California hasÃÂ claimed at least sixÃÂ lives, left seven people missing, burned hundreds of homes and driven more than 30,000ÃÂ stunned, mourning residents from their communities.
More than 3,000 firefighters were battling the blaze, which had grown to 140 square miles. High temperatures and heavy winds conspired to complicate the effort backed by more than 300 fire engines and 17 helicopters.
The fire remained only 5 percent containedÃÂ Sunday despite "aggressive" efforts to control the blaze, according to the California Department of Forestry andÃÂ Fire Protection.
"Extreme fire conditions continue to challenge firefighters," Cal Fire said in a statement. "Erratic winds and hot dry conditions resulted in greater growth and increased fire behavior during night operations."
The sheriffÃ¢ÂÂs department is investigating seven missing persons reports, saidÃÂ County Sheriff Tom Bosenko.ÃÂ Redding police have an additional 11 reports of missing people, though many of them may simply not have checked in with friends or family, said Redding police Sgt. Todd Cogle
The wildfire was among more than a dozen in California requiring more than 10,000 firefighters and chasing 50,000 people from their homes.
Redding sits on the Sacramento River about 170 miles north of the state capital and 120 miles south of the Oregon border. Some neighborhoods here were forced to evacuate, along with parts of the nearby Shasta County communities includingÃÂ Happy Valley, Igo and Ono. As the blaze roared west, residents of the Trinity County town of LewistonÃÂ also wereÃÂ ordered to evacuate.
Wayne and Laura RatheÃÂ say they were fully aware of the wildfire danger that comes with living "in the woods" outside Redding. They took all the defensive measures they couldÃÂ and evacuated Thursday before the order.ÃÂ
On Saturday, theyÃÂ learned their home of almost 20 years was gone.
Ã¢ÂÂWe did everything right,Ã¢ÂÂ Laura Rathe said.ÃÂ Ã¢ÂÂItÃ¢ÂÂs crazy, itÃ¢ÂÂs unbelievable, itÃ¢ÂÂs a nightmare."
The fire was ignited Monday when a vehicle malfunctioned near the Carr Powerhouse in Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, Cal Fire says.ÃÂ More than a dozen people have been reported missing, but authorities said most probably were out of touch with friends and neighbors.
A California sheriff says a sixth person has died in a raging wildfire that has destroyed more than 500 buildings. Shasta County Sheriff Tom Bosenko said Sunday that the remains were found within the boundary of the Carr Fire near Redding. (July 29) AP
The confirmed fatalitiesÃÂ includedÃÂ James Roberts, 5, and his sister, Emily, 4, and their great-grandmother Melody Bledsoe, 74.
Ã¢ÂÂIÃ¢ÂÂm just devastated,Ã¢ÂÂ said Eddy Bledsoe, Melody's husband. "All she lived for were them kids and me.Ã¢ÂÂ
Bulldozer operator Don Ray Smith, 81, was killedÃÂ while clearing debris for the firefighting effort when his position was overrun by the flames. Jeremy Stoke, a 14-year firefighter, also was among the victims.
"With heavy hearts we announce the passing of Fire Inspector Jeremy Stoke," the Redding Fire Department said in a statement. "Jeremy died while battling the Carr Fire. We ask for your thoughts and prayers for his family and the RFD as we process this tragic loss."
The sixth fire fatality wasn't immediately identified.
Among the other blazes across the state is the Ferguson Fire, whichÃÂ has burned more than 80 square milesÃÂ near Yosemite National Park. Parts of the park are closed until at least week's end, and park officials say visitors elsewhere should expect "poor air quality and visibility."
Bendu and Sandhu reported from Redding;ÃÂ Bacon from McLean, Virginia. Contributing: Christal Hayes.