6 killed, 7 missing as California wildfire rages

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Redding (California), July 30 (IANS) At least six people have died in a deadly fire that has ravaged a large swathe of California and continues to grow amid dry weather conditions severely hampering efforts to control the blaze.

The Carr fire was just 17 per cent contained on Sunday night, having burned over 95,000 acres of land, the US media reported.

Tom Bosenko, the sheriff of Shasta County, where the blaze has been raging since last Monday, told reporters that sixteen people had been reported missing, but nine of those were found safe. The fire broke out due to a vehicle “mechanical failure” — presumably an engine fire.

“Erratic winds” and dry conditions caused the Carr fire to grow, according to firefighters. It is one of eight major wildfires currently burning in the state.

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High temperatures, low humidity and increased winds are all in the forecast, setting the stage for more explosive fire behaviour, Chris Harvey with the Cal Fire Incident Management Team said.

The erratic flames were blamed for six deaths, including 70-year-old Melody Bledsoe and her great-grandchildren, 4-year-old Emily Roberts and 5-year-old James Roberts. An unidentified fourth body was found in a burnt-out house on Sunday. Two firefighters also lost their lives last week, CNN reported.

“This fire is scary to us. This is something we haven’t seen before in the city,” Redding Police Chief Roger Moore said.

A total of 38,000 people were evacuated from Shasta County. California’s Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in the area, as well as in three others. US President Donald Trump approved federal aid for the counties.

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There were 12,000 firefighters battling the flames across the state. Firefighters had been making progress in containing it until Thursday night, when it began to quickly spread.

According to the National Weather Service: “A dangerous heat wave will continue from California to the Pacific Northwest early this week. Triple digit heat combined with dry humidity will only exacerbate the ongoing wildfire situation in California.”

Authorities said that 657 structures (both homes and other buildings) were destroyed in the blaze and another 145 damaged.

In addition to the Carr fire, more than a dozen other large wildfires were burning throughout California, stretching resources. Authorities in Riverside County announced on Friday the arrest of a man accused of starting the Cranston Fire, which destroyed 4,700 hectares of land.

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Brandon McGlover, 32, was facing 15 criminal charges and was being held on $1 million bail.

–IANS

soni/bg

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