Redding, a city of 92,000 near the OR border, is at grave risk from the Carr fire, which has so far killed two people.
An explosive wildfire tore through two small Northern California communities today before reaching the city of Redding, killing a bulldozer operator on the fire lines, burning three firefighters, destroying dozens of homes and forcing thousands to flee.
Conditions are ripe for the continued spread of the blaze, as the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire) noted that "continued hot, dry weather is forecasted for the remainder of the week with triple digit temperatures".
The blaze crossed the Sacramento River and now threatens hundreds of homes on the western fringes of the city of Redding. "There was not much of a warning". Officials said they had dispatched more than 1,700 fire personnel, including dozens of fire crews, more than 100 fire engines along with bulldozers, helicopters and vehicles to deliver water.
A Cal Fire spokesman could only confirm portions of west Redding were under evacuation. The Mercy Medical Center in Redding evacuated its neonatal intensive care unit, it said in a statement.
She described the evacuation process on Thursday night as "a lot of chaos" and traffic in town, with gridlock for miles on Interstate 5 heading south toward Chico.
Gusty winds reaching 60 miles per hour are fanning the flames and creating fire tornadoes, or "firenadoes", that move erratically and are strong enough to overturn vehicles "like toys", McLean told reporters at a news conference late Thursday. Fire officials warned that the blaze would probably burn deeper into urban areas before there was any hope of containing it.
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A reporter with KRCR-TV choked up as she reported live updates about the fire before the station had to go off the air later.
The Carr Fire turned deadly with the announcement by CAL FIRE early Friday that a contract dozer operator was killed while fighting the fire.
Gov. Jerry Brown has declared states of emergency for the three largest fires, authorizing the state to rally resources to local governments, the AP writes. The Ferguson Fire near Yosemite National Park, which has charred 45,911 acres (18,500 hectares), was 29 percent contained.
There are more than 1,700 firefighters working to control the flames, of which only six percent are contained so far.
A 32-year-old man was charged with setting the Cranston fire along with eight others.
The season has followed a particularly destructive and deadly fire year in the state -in 2017 almost 9,000 wildfires tore through 1.2m acres, taking down close to 11,000 structures. "There's a lot of fire, a lot of structures burning".
Damate then pleaded with residents to follow the evacuation order in place and "stay safe".