An explosive wildfire raged through several Northern California communities, killing two firefighters and destroying dozens of homes after thousands of terrified residents fled in miles-long traffic jams.
Flames that turned the sky orange swept through the communities of Shasta and Keswick before jumping the Sacramento River on Thursday and reaching Redding, a city of about 92,000 people and the largest in the region.
The so-called Carr Fire is “taking down everything in its path,” said Scott McLean, a CalFire spokesman for the crews battling the blaze.
Sixty-five structures had been destroyed, and 500 other buildings were threatened, fire officials said.
“Really, we’re in a life-saving mode right now in Redding,” said Jonathan Cox, battalion chief with Cal Fire. “We’re not fighting a fire. We’re trying to move people out of the path of it because it is now deadly, and it is now moving at speeds and in ways we have not seen before in this area.”
The 45-square-mile (115-square-kilometer) fire that began Monday tripled in size overnight Thursday amid scorching temperatures, low humidity and windy conditions. It was sparked by a mechanical issue involving a vehicle, Cal Fire said.
Brett Gouvea, incident commander of the crews battling the fire, urged residents to pay close attention to the blaze.
“This fire is extremely dangerous and moving with no regard for what’s in its path,” he said.