Northern California wildfire rages into its fourth day

RESCUE, California. – Thousands of dazed evacuees struggling to keep their emotions in check while trying to provide for themselves and their pets as a deadly wildfire in Northern California raged into its fourth day.

Anna Noland, 49, was evacuated twice in three days before learning by means of video-recordings that the house that they last saw in a dark and windy sky had burned.

They are expected to spend Saturday night in a shelter at Simpson College in Redding, while she looks for another place to live.

“I think I’m still in shock,” Noland said. “It is unbelievable to know that you do not have a home to go back.”

Noland is one of the 38,000 people evacuated after the Carr Fire roared in the outskirts of Redding in Shasta County, leaving five people dead, including two firefighters, a woman and her two grandchildren, ages 4 and 5.

“My babies are dead,” Sherry Bledsoe said with tears, after she and family members met with Shasta County sheriff’s deputies.

A vehicle problem ignited the fire Monday, but it was not until Thursday that the fire exploded and ran to the communities west of Redding to enter the city limits.

On Saturday pushed southwest of Redding, the largest city in the region, in the direction of the small communities of Ono, Igo and Gas Point, where scorching heat, winds and dry conditions have complicated fire-fighting efforts.

The fire, which grew slightly from Saturday to 131 square miles (340 square kilometers), is the largest fire in California. Nearly 5,000 structures were threatened and the fire was only 5 percent contained.

The last score of 536 destroyed structures was 500 earlier in the day, and sure to rise. A count by The Associated Press found at least 300 of those structures were homes.

Bonnie and Jerry Kieffaber picked up most of their drugs when they left their home in Redding on Thursday, but they forgot his insulin. Days later, the police do not let them in, because it still is dangerous.

Bonnie Kieffaber, 69, says they are away from home is expensive.

“All of our food was there, and now we are draining our checking account trying to keep gas in the car and buy something to eat,” she said while grabbing a hot meal at a Red Cross shelter.

“It is tiring,” she said. “The heat and the stress of it all, and pray for everyone and all of our friends.”

The firefighters killed in the hell included, Don Ray Smith, 81, of Pollock Pines, a bulldozer operator who was helping clear the vegetation in the path of the wildfire. Rescue fire Inspector Jeremy Stoke, was also killed, but the details of his death were not released.

Sherry Bledsoe’s two children, James Roberts, 5, and Emily Roberts, 4, were stranded with their great-grandmother, Melody Bledsoe, 70, when the walls of fire swept through the family’s rural property Thursday on the outskirts of Redding.

The three were among more than a dozen people missing after a raging wind-driven blaze took the inhabitants by surprise, and leveled several neighborhoods.

Shasta County Sheriff Tom Bosenko said that he expected to make a number of those people in life, and just contact with loved ones. The officers went to the homes of a number of people missing and found, car’s gone — a strong indication that they fled.

About 100 miles (160 kilometers) southwest of Redding, two burning prompted mandatory evacuations in Mendocino County. The two fires, burning 30 miles (50 kilometers) of each other, started Friday and threatened more than 350 buildings.

Authorities also issued evacuation orders in Napa County, famous for its wine, where several structures caught fire, the Napa Valley Register reported. The fire had black 150 acres and was 10 percent containment.

In the whole country, Cal Fire officials said more than 10,000 firefighters were on the line, making progress on the 14 major forest fires.

Major fires also continue to burn outside Yosemite National Park and the San Jacinto Mountains east of Los Angeles near Palm Springs. That fire had burned nearly 100 square miles (260 square kilometers).

Yosemite Valley remained closed to visitors and will not reopen until Friday.

In Shasta County, Matt Smith, a Forest Service pilot with 13 years of experience as a smokejumper, says he used snakes to save his house near the Lake Redding Estates.

Burned and twisted bicycle frames, refrigerators, and piles of debris were still smoking Saturday around his house.

Smith said he came home Thursday, as evacuees were racing.

“Save it for your family, keep it for your family”, he says, he remembered during two adrenaline-filled hours.

As a former firefighter, he said that he always have an escape route in mind, perhaps the neighbors pool.

On Saturday, he had a blistering burn on his hand grasps his propane tank and wrestling them away from the house and in the front yard. His nose and ear also had burns.

“The good news is that our house here. The bad news is that our neighborhood is heartbroken,” he said.


Melley reported from Los Angeles. Associated Press writers Martha Mendoza in Salvation; Olga Rodriguez and Janie Har in San Francisco; Don Thompson in Sacramento; Amanda Lee Myers in Los Angeles also contributed to this report.

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