In 1971 J. Standard Baker Quoted " Drivers Towing Trailers  Are Four (4) Times As Unsafe As Those In Cars Alone! 

Carr Fire update: 38,000 evacuated, 500 buildings burned as blaze ravages Redding area
The Shasta County fire was only 5 percent contained Friday night

By Mark Gomez |, Paul Rogers | and Annie Sciacca | | Bay Area News Group
PUBLISHED: July 27, 2018 at 6:13 am | UPDATED: July 28, 2018 at 9:21 am

REDDING — Adding a shocking new intensity to California’s already bad summer fire season, a major fire continued to rage out of control Friday in Shasta County, burning homes in city neighborhoods in Redding and displacing 38,000 people as firefighters battled in temperatures close to 110 degrees.

The Carr Fire, which began Monday, has killed two firefighters, injured three more, destroyed 500 structures, scorched more than 45,000 acres and is threatening thousands of homes across the city.

“It was like a tornado,” said Joyce Cox-Sacco, of Redding. “It was so horrific.”

From her home on Amethyst Way, Cox-Sacco watched from a distance Thursday night as firefighters battled the fire on a nearby ridge. But as darkness fell, she said, the fire started advancing quickly toward her house, and she knew she had to leave.

On Friday, Cox-Sacco was boarding up the garage door of her house, which was ripped off, along with the roof, during the fire. The top of her chimney lay across the street, having been swept off by wind or debris as the fire barreled through her neighborhood.

Officials with Cal Fire, the state’s firefighting agency, reiterated Friday the danger facing Redding, and the region around the city of 91,000 people. The National Weather Service issued a red flag warning for Redding through Monday morning, with temperatures up to a scorching 111 degrees.

“These are extreme conditions,” Cal Fire Chief Ken Pimlott said during a news conference. “Evacuate. Evacuate. Evacuate. Leave before you are asked to leave.”

The fire continued to spread after Redding police early Friday issued mandatory evacuation orders for neighborhoods in the western part of the city. The office of Shasta County Sheriff Tom Bosenko said 38,000 people were ordered to evacuate. Cars clogged roads late Thursday and into Friday. The blaze was only 5 percent contained by Friday night.

“We’ve seen fire conditions and weather conditions like we’ve never seen before, ” said Mark Ghilarducci, director of the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services. “It’s quite an event to stay out in front of.”

Scott McLean, deputy chief of Cal Fire, said the fire was caused by a vehicle towing a trailer, possibly through some kind of mechanical failure.

The wildfire has destroyed at least 500 structures and about 5,000 were still threatened by the blaze, officials said Friday. Pimlott said 3,500 firefighters were fighting the fire, with reinforcements expected in the days to come.

“It burned into the city limits last night with great velocity,” McLean said. “It caught a lot of people off guard. A lot of people had to be evacuated. It has the potential to take off again.”

The Carr Fire was the latest massive blaze to hit California this month. On Tuesday, park officials evacuated thousands of visitors from Yosemite National Park at the height of tourist season. Although flames from the Ferguson Fire, which has been burning since July 13, have not entered the park boundaries, they generated massive amounts of unhealthy smoke and forced the closure of Highway 140, while threatening nearby communities such as Yosemite West and ancient sequoias in Merced Grove near Highway 120.

By midday Friday, the Ferguson fire had burned 45,911 acres. More than 3,800 firefighters with 261 engines, 16 helicopters and 79 bulldozers had the fire 29 percent contained. The National Park Service said that Yosemite Valley will remain closed until 4 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 3, with limited services including campgrounds, lodging and food services being available.

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A couple weeks after the Ferguson fire killed a Cal Fire bulldozer operator, whose bulldozer rolled down a steep hill while he worked near the flames at night, the Carr Fire also killed a bulldozer operator on Thursday. The news worsened Friday, as Cal Fire announced that a Redding fire inspector, Jeremy Stoke, was killed while battling the fire.

Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday declared a state of emergency in Shasta and Mariposa counties, along with Riverside County, where the Cranston Fire had burned 11,500 acres east of Hemet by Friday afternoon with only 3 percent containment.

“Our thoughts are with the loved ones of the 2 firefighters we lost fighting the #CarrFire & with the many Californians who have lost their homes,” Brown said in a Twitter message Friday. “We are with you.”

This year’s fire season in California is the worst in a decade. Through Thursday night, 289,727 acres — an area roughly 10 times the size of the city of San Francisco — had burned since Jan. 1 on federal, state and private lands, according to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise.

That total is 61 percent more than at this time during the previous 10 years, 2017 to 2008, when 180,076 acres had burned, on average, through July 27.

At least three more months of dangerous fire conditions lay ahead for the state until November when the first winter rains normally come.

The reason that this year is so bad, is largely due to the state’s recent five-year drought, said Craig Clements, an associate professor of meteorology at San Jose State University who studies fire conditions.

“It’s the fuels,” said Clements. “The fuels are so dry from the drought and this minimal year of winter precipitation. Because everything is so dry, you get an ignition and it goes crazy.”

Although California winter of 2016-17 was soaking, and ended the drought of the previous five years, the most recent winter was below-average, and there are millions of tons of dead trees, brushes, grass and brush across California. Add to that hot conditions, which have been getting increasingly hot due to climate change, particularly at night when fires in the past have died down, and the state faces a crisis, he said.

“It’s the drying of the West,” said Clements. “Over the last 30 years we are seeing more acreage burned, and that correlates to increased temperatures across the West. As the climate is changing, we are getting more drought conditions, and that is drying out the fuels further, so you are seeing more massive, intense fires.”

Over last 10 years, 6.6 million acres has burned a year on average in the United States, according to federal statistics. That’s double the 3.3 million acres that burned from 1997 to 1998.

“We should expect more fires in the next three months,” said Clements. “It’s going to be a bad year. But every year is a bad year now.”

Meanwhile Friday, the Marin County Fire Department announced that three of its firefighters suffered burn injuries Thursday night while battling the Carr Fire. The three firefighters were attempting to save a structure when they experienced a “sudden blast of heat” from burning vegetation, according to the fire department.

The three — Scott Pederson, 37; Tyler Barnes 34; and Brian Cardoza, 26 — were treated for burns to the ears, face and hands at Redding’s Mercy Medical Center, according to the Sacramento Bee. One was later brought to the UC Davis Burn Center in Sacramento for further evaluation.

Cal Fire’s McLean said that although the fire had burned homes in suburban neighborhoods, it is different than the Wine Country fires that devastated neighborhoods in Sonoma and Napa counties last October.

Those fires, many of which were started by fallen power lines, were driven by extremely dry conditions and winds of up to 80 m.p.h. that roared in from the north. When the Redding fire exploded out of control Thursday night, the winds were much less strong, but changed directions rapidly, causing havoc.

“This fire has been pushed in every which direction by very erratic winds,” he said. “It’s caused very erratic fire conditions which is very dangerous.”

Friday at 6:33 a.m., Cal Fire announced the fire grew overnight from 29,000 acres to 44,450 acres, and the containment dropped from 6 to 3 percent.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management reported Friday it has temporarily closed public lands west of Redding because of the Carr Fire. The closures affect lands north of Placer Road and west of Keswick, including the Keswick area, Iron Mountain Road, the Chappie-Shasta Off Highway Vehicle Recreation Area and the Swasey Recreation Area.

Firefighters had tried in vain to build containment around the blaze Thursday, but flames kept jumping their lines. Earlier Thursday, with flames exploding around Whiskeytown Lake, an effort to save boats at a marina by untying them from moorings and pushing them to safety wasn’t swift enough to spare them all.

Dozens of charred, twisted and melted boats were among the losses at Oak Bottom Marina.

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“The only buildings left standing … right now are the fire station and a couple of restrooms,” said Fire Chief Mike Hebrard of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

“The boat docks down there — all the way out in the water — 30 to 40 boats caught fire when the fire laid down on top of them last night and burned those up.”

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In the historic Gold Rush-era town of Shasta, state parks employees worked through the early morning to rescue artifacts from a museum as the blaze advanced.

Wildfires throughout the state have burned through tinder-dry brush and forest, forced thousands to evacuate homes and forced campers to pack up their tents at the height of summer.

Staff writers Jason Green and Rex Crum contributed to this report.