Washington, July 28 (IANS) A raging wildfire in California has killed two firefighters and prompted 38,000 evacuations, destroying scores of homes and threatening other dwellings and businesses.
The blaze, known as the Carr fire, started on Monday. It destroyed at least 500 structures and threatened thousands of homes in Shasta County. There were 800 soldiers and airmen on the ground or en route to the Carr Fire to help, the California National Guard was quoted as saying by ABC News.
After ravaging the communities of Shasta and Keswick, the Carr Fire swept across the Sacramento River overnight and burnt houses on the outskirts of Redding, a city of 95,000 people 120 miles south of the California-Oregon border, officials said.
A bulldozer operator was killed in Redding while working with fire teams to clear brush around the fire. Another death was of the member of the Redding Fire Department.
The fires were being sucked up by strong winds to form “fire tornados” that were uprooting trees and overturning cars, fire officials said on Saturday.
The “mechanical failure of a vehicle” ignited the blaze in Whiskeytown, officials said. It had burned an area of more than 48,000 acres by Friday night, with a containment of just 5 per cent.
“A lot of our challenges right now with this fire is the weather. Our humidity is really low,” Eric Colter, with the Redding Bureau of Land Management, told San Francisco ABC station KGO. “High temperatures and we’re getting a lot of evening and late afternoon winds.”
Streets in Redding were all but deserted, with thick, sickly-brown smoke filling the air. California Governor Jerry Brown requested emergency federal assistance to prevent an “imminent catastrophe” as local officials tried to find supplies and water for the tens of thousands of evacuated residents.
High temperatures and low humidity were expected for the next seven to ten days. “This fire is a long way from done,” said CalFire Director Ken Pimlott.
The devastation in California came less than a week after a powerful blaze tore through large parts of Athens, Greece. At least 86 people were killed and countless others were missing with rescue divers searching the surrounding ocean waters for bodies.
Authorities believe the fire in Athens was deliberately lit.