Monday, 15 October, 2018

California wildfires: Officials 'optimistic' despite growing death toll

Victims of California wildfire named 5 Killed Including 2 Children and Their Great-Great Grandmother in California Wildfires
Charlie Simmons | 30 July, 2018, 14:27

70-year old Melody Bledsoe and her great-grandchildren 5-year-old James Roberts and 4-year-old Emily Roberts died in the fast-moving fire.

"We're feeling a lot more optimistic today as we're starting to gain some ground rather than being in a defensive mode on this fire all the time", said Bret Gouvea, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection's incident commander on the blaze around Redding, which is located about 230 miles north of San Francisco.

Shasta County Sheriff Tom Bosenko said a sixth victim had been found at a home engulfed by flames.

Bosenko said Sunday that 16 people have so far been reported missing over the course of the fire.

On Saturday, it pushed southwest of Redding, the largest city in the region, toward the tiny communities of Ono, Igo and Gas Point.

A house burns during the Carr fire in Redding, California on July 27, 2018. Northwest Redding saw single-digit relative humidity, winds up to 13 miles per hour and temperatures of 102 degrees, with a Heat Index of 108 on Friday.

Authorities said a second firefighter has died fighting a huge blaze near California's Yosemite National Park. He was identified Saturday as Don Ray Smith, 81, of Pollock Pines. Redding Fire Inspector Jeremy Stoke was also killed, though no details were provided.

Firefighters are battling 17 wildfires across the state, which have consumed a combined 200,000 acres in terrain stretching from Southern California to the OR border, said Jonathan Cox, battalion chief and information officer with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Typically on fires like this about 60 to 80 percent of "structures" destroyed are sheds, detached garages, or similar outbuildings. A count by The Associated Press found at least 300 of those structures were homes. The two fires, burning 30 miles (50 kilometers) apart, started Friday and are threatening more than 350 buildings.

The Carr Fire, the deadliest and most destructive of nearly 90 wildfires burning from Texas to OR, has charred almost 34,000 hectares of drought-parched vegetation since erupting last Monday.

President Donald Trump signed a declaration of emergency for California yesterday, authorizing federal emergency aid for response efforts in areas affected by wildfires.

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In the Redding area, authorities were investigating reports of looting in evacuated areas.

About 100 law enforcement officers and 260 National Guard soldiers were helping with evacuations and providing security in empty neighborhoods.

Somewhere in the ash was the home of Shyla and Jason Campbell.

Firefighters in Shasta County, in northern California, where the Carr Fire began on July 23, warned on Twitter that "erratic winds and hot, dry conditions on the #CarrFire resulted in greater growth and increased fire behavior last night". More than 38,000 people remained under evacuation orders on Sunday in and around the city of Redding, about 160 miles (257 km) north of the state capital Sacramento.

"It's pretty emotional", Terri Hill said.

Sherry Bledsoe, left, cries next to her sister, Carla, outside of the sheriff's office after hearing news that Sherry's children, James and Emily, and grandmother, Melody Bledsoe, were killed in a wildfire, July 28, 2018, in Redding, Calif. The family did not believe the home was under evacuation when Ed Bledsoe went out to get supplies.

She said the state has experienced considerably more fire activity so far this year than it did over the same period of time last year, and the worst part of the fire season was still to come.

Steve Hobson, a former firefighter, said flames on the distant hillside looked like solar flares on the sun. "I couldn't smell death in the air, which is good".

I just had to evacuate my house due to mandatory evacuation as our city of Redding, CA is on fire.

"We got disgusting news".

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