At Least 8 Dead, 7 Missing as Wildfires Continue to Spread Across California

Authorities on Monday were hoping that a slight break in the heat this week could help them gain control of a number of wildfires that have so far scorched more than 200,000 acres and killed eight people across California.

The Carr fire, which erupted in Shasta County a week ago and spread into the city of Redding, grew to 98,724 acres and was 20% contained as of Monday morning. The fire has destroyed close to 1,000 structures and claimed six lives, including a fire inspector, a bulldozer operator, a great-grandmother and her two great-grandchildren. Two other deaths have been attributed to the Ferguson fire near Yosemite.

“The terrain is just awful and difficult to access, it’s just inaccessible in a lot of areas,” Dominic Polito, a spokesman for fire authorities, said of the Carr fire. “If you were to walk up it, you’d be looking at your knee on every step.”

The focus Monday will be to prevent the fire from spreading farther into Trinity County, Polito said.

“Firefighters worked through the night to build control lines. Today crews will work to mitigate potential spot fires as shifting winds, dry fuels and steep drainages exist below control lines,” according to an incident report on the Carr fire.

 

Some evacuations were lifted in Redding on Monday morning, but mandatory evacuations remained in place in Shasta and Trinity counties, and authorities are warning people to stay away from blocked off areas. In Redding, law enforcement agencies patrolled the 17 square miles that were vacant over the weekend and arrested two men Sunday night on charges of unauthorized entry into an enclosed area, according to Redding police.

Authorities also arrested two other people Sunday afternoon in Shasta County on suspicion of looting, after deputies found that the front door to a home had been forced open in an evacuated area, and electronic items were stacked by the door, according to a Shasta County sheriff’s statement.

Redding residents Jack Fannin, 19, and Jade Ball, 25, were arrested and booked at Shasta County Jail.

Two fires in Mendocino County — the River and Ranch fires — also continued to grow overnight. Combined, they covered almost 56,000 acres, with 10% containment by Monday morning. Firefighters battled “extreme” fire weather throughout the night, and “weather conditions will continue to challenge firefighters as hot, dry and windy conditions persist,” according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection incident report.

Weather over the Carr fire around Redding, as well as over the two fires in Mendocino County, was expected to be hot and dry Monday, with temperatures in the mid-to-upper 90s above the Carr fire and in the low 90s in Mendocino County, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Cory Mueller.

Though the fires are not wind-driven, expected gusts up to 20 mph Monday afternoon could affect firefighting efforts in both areas, Mueller said.

By midweek, forecasters expect temperatures to drop slightly, though it will still be hot, Mueller said.

The massive Ferguson fire that has accounted for two firefighter deaths and prompted the closure of portions of nearby Yosemite National Park, grew roughly 2,000 acres overnight to 56,659 acres, and remained 30% contained.

Authorities lifted some evacuations in Mariposa on and around East Westfall Road, warning that they could be placed under mandatory evacuation again if conditions change.

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SOURCE: LA Times, by