Seventeen people are now missing as a monster wildfire in Northern California spread after killing 2 firefighters, destroying hundreds of buildings and sending tens of thousands of frantic residents fleeing from their homes.
About 38,000 people in Redding and elsewhere in Shasta County have been ordered to leave their homes from the 32,740-hectare Carr Fire, which has destroyed at least 500 homes and businesses. Officials warned further evacuation orders were possible.
Some 3400 firefighters on the ground and in 17 helicopters were battling the fire, which was just five per cent contained as it ripped through Redding, a city of 90,000 people, in California’s scenic Shasta-Trinity area. It has left Keswick, a town of 450, in smouldering ruins, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said.
Another 5000 buildings are threatened, Cal Fire said on Saturday.
Law enforcement officials are trying to locate 17 people reported missing, but noted that the number of missing has fluctuated in recent days as new people are reported missing and others located, Redding Police Sergeant Todd Cogle said by telephone.
Cogle said; “We don’t want to give the impression that all these people have suffered some kind of grave circumstances. We sent officers to some of these places (where they lived) and the houses were intact, so it’s more than likely those people just evacuated.”
There are currently 89 large wildfires blazing across 14 US states, mostly in the West, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.
So far this year, wildfires have scorched almost 1.7 million hectares across the US, above the 1.5 million-hectare average for the same period over the last decade.
The fire, which started on Monday afternoon, has been fed by hot, dry weather and high winds. Temperatures were forecast to reach 42.8 Celsius on Saturday, with winds of up to 13 km/h, according to the National Weather Service.
A bulldozer operator as well as a member of the Redding Fire Department died in the blaze. Mercy Medical Center hospital has treated nine people for burns, including three firefighters, spokesman Mike Mangas said Saturday.