By Agence France-Presse
Around 12,000 firefighters battled Sunday to contain wildfires in California that have killed six people — but authorities warned “erratic” winds and dry conditions have caused the flames to grow and spread.
“Very hot and dry conditions will continue over the West coast states through Sunday,” the National Weather Service said early Sunday.
“Conditions around the Carr wildfire near Redding, California will continue to be conducive to rapid wildfire growth and spread.”
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.”
Two firefighters were killed fighting the blaze and three people — a 70-year-old woman and her two great-grandchildren aged four and five — perished when their Redding home was rapidly swallowed up by flames.
“God almighty, I don’t know what I done wrong,” Melody Bledsoe’s husband Ed told The Sacramento Bee, recalling how he tried to get back to the home in time. “I talked to them until the fire got them.”
The Carr Fire — only five percent contained — has scorched 89,194 acres (36,000 hectares), destroyed 517 buildings and damaged 135 more, according to the latest reports.
By late Saturday, 38,000 people had been evacuated in Shasta County. California Governor Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency in the county, as well as in the counties of Lake, Napa and Mendocino.
He asked for federal assistance, including military aircraft, shelter supplies and water for evacuated residents in Shasta County, where he said the Carr Fire had grown “uncontrollably.”
US President Donald Trump signed an emergency declaration to make federal aid available to county authorities.
Another northern California fire, the Mendocino Complex — made up of two fires — has also burned more than 24,000 acres in total since Friday. Having rapidly spread, it was only 10 percent contained Sunday morning.
Elsewhere, firefighters reported that the Ferguson fire, near Yosemite National Park, had grown only by around 1,980 acres overnight — bringing the total damage to 53,646 acres since July 13 — and was 30 percent contained. A firefighter died battling that blaze, with seven people also injured.
Meanwhile, the Cranston Fire forced the evacuation of over 7,000 people, although some were able to return to their homes early Sunday. The fire — sparked by humans — has destroyed 13,130 acres and is 29 percent contained.
According to the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES), 17 large-scale fires were burning, with 12,000 firefighters deployed across the state.
Reinforcements from 13 states were already on the ground or en route from as far away as New Jersey, Florida and Maryland on the east coast.
In the country as a whole, there were a total of 39 active fires, with over 239,000 acres up in flames, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.