Residents flee California wildfire as it tears through towns

Pauline Obrien
July 27, 2018

The blaze moved east from the communities of Whiskeytown and Shasta and crossed the Sacramento River to threaten the city of Redding, home to 90,000 people.

"This fire is extremely risky and is moving with no regard to what's on its path", Cal Fire Incident Commander Chief Brett Gouvea told reporters. The fire was earlier estimated to have claimed almost 30,000 acres and was about 6 percent contained, but authorities said that acreage is expected to increase "dramatically".

Late Thursday, crews found the body of a bulldozer operator who was hired privately to clear vegetation in the blaze's path, McLean said.

The operator, who has not been identified, is the state's second fire-related death in recent weeks.

"As we mourn the loss, we also battle a fire that is moving extremely quickly and erratically into western Redding", Gouvea said. "There have been some injuries to civilians and firefighters", California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) spokesman Scott McLean told the Sacramento Bee newspaper.

More residents are on standby for evacuation as the blaze continues on its path of destruction.

The California National Guard has stepped in to help to contain the blaze.

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Cal Fire Shasta County has ordered the entire city to evacuate as well as all of Shasta Dam Boulevard, the Shasta Dam Visitor Center and Summit City.

"The fire is creating a huge wind vacuum and moving very rapidly toward west Redding".

Authorities urged other residents in nearby areas to evacuate and said more evacuation orders could follow.

Flames have consumed trees, houses and historic buildings in Shasta County for days and temporarily closed traffic along Highway 299. "We ask everyone to heed evacuation orders and leave promptly".

The Cranston fire was no accident, authorities said.

A message posted to outdoor science school AstroCamp said that all campers and staff had been safely relocated to Banning High School.

Jerry Brown on Thursday issued emergency proclamations in both Riverside County in the south and Shasta County in the north.

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There are more than 1,700 firefighters working to control the flames, of which only six percent are contained so far.

Cal Fire officials arrested Temecula resident Brandon N. McGlover, 32, in Hemet, according to a news release from Riverside County Fire Department and Cal Fire.

A man was in custody for questioning in the Cranston Fire that might have been intentionally set.

More than 1,000 firefighters are battling that blaze, which has scorched 7,500 acres and is only 5% contained.

Mike Mangas, a spokesman at Mercy Medical Center, said the hospital was evacuating five babies in its neonatal intensive care unit, which cares for premature newborns, and taking them to medical facilities outside of the area.

As of 4 p.m. 110 homes had been evacuated, 600 structures were threatened and 3,800 customers in the Idyllwild area were without power, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

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