Northern California is presently besieged by a giant wildfire, complete with “firenados,” a blaze that is being counted as among the 10 worst fires in California’s history.
The Carr fire, which began in Shasta county near Redding last week, has consumed more than 103,000 acres of land and has continued to grow as the land is tinderbox dry. Reports indicate that residents have never seen anything like this and are describing the scene as “apocalyptic.”
At least 723 homes have been destroyed, six people have reportedly died and others remain missing.
The home of Redding residents Judah and Krystal Gowan was completely burned to the ground, and they were caught off guard by the fire’s rapid movement.
On Thursday, they spoke to the fire crew in their neighborhood near Keswick dam, and were told that their house should be safe. But around two hours later, they received a call from a family member in the area saying they had to get out immediately or they would be unable to escape at all.
“I was petrified,” Krystal Gowan said in a Monday interview with The Christian Post.
“I have two toddlers, my parents live with me, plus cats and dogs. Within the span of five minutes we grabbed exactly that list, shoved everyone in the car, and we ran. As we drove out of our gated community the fire trucks were entering and using loudspeakers for us to exit.”
As they left, they saw several homes on fire and the blaze was surrounding the whole community. Gowan heard later that others were taken out of the neighborhood via helicopter. She told CP she took her first shower last night and expected the ash she felt she was covered in to pour into the drain, but noted the water was remarkably clear.
“And I thought, ‘this is God saying He’s got us, He’s already taken care of this,'” Gowan recounted.
“We are a bit frozen as a family. Everyone is in the same position, and we are such a close community. We all want to help each other,” she said.
Relief efforts are underway and prayers are being sent from around the world.
Here are five things to know about the Carr fire, including what leaders at Bethel Church, an influential charismatic church located in Redding, are saying.
How it all got started, conditions that have produced ‘firenados’
The Carr fire began one week ago when a vehicle suffered a mechanical failure and set the ground ablaze and spread rapidly, according to local officials. The blaze occurred at the intersection of Highway 299 and Carr Powerhouse Road in Whiskeytown, just outside of Redding, near Whiskeytown National Park.
By Wednesday and Thursday, the fire was growing so quickly that Highway 299 had to be closed and nearby areas were placed under mandatory evacuation.
Ultra hot conditions have worsened the situation as strong gusts of wind escalated the fire, causing it to double in size. The conditions have been so severe that a localized weather system has been created; though they are not tornados, what appear to be “firenados” have been spotted across the region, swirling with intensity. Unlike the strong winds typical in other California wildfires, the winds in Redding are of a different variety.
Exacerbated by triple-digit temperatures that have peaked in the 110s in the past week, the extremely hot smoke rises and creates a ferocious updraft, a force so potent it starts to rotate. While most fire swirls are relatively small, large ones have been seen stretching to the sky, terrifying residents and atmospheric observers.
“The Carr Fire is unprecedented in that strong winds were not driving the fire, but rather the plume rotated and intensified creating its own weather. For a fire to burn into Redding like that is very unique,” said Professor Craig Clements, director of the fire weather research lab at San Jose State University, as reported by Mercury News.
Likewise, Neil Lareau, assistant professor of atmospheric science at the University of Nevada at Reno, commented that the fire tornado was a “[f]ull-on rotating convective column. Scary as hell.”
Smoke from the wildfire is so thick it can be seen from outer space and it is blanketing portions of the state.
California Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency, a request President Donald Trump approved Saturday. The president’s action allows federal agencies to dispense disaster response equipment and resources in addition to U.S. military personnel and Defense Department assets.
6 people dead, others missing
The fire has claimed the lives of six people, among them a firefighter, a bulldozer operator, a 70-year-old woman and her two great-grandkids, James and Emily Roberts, ages 5 and 4. The name of the sixth deceased person has not yet been released publicly.
“I was only gone about 15 minutes when my wife called and said, ‘You gotta get here. The fire’s coming up the hill,” said Ed Bledsoe, in an interview with CBS.
Bledsoe is the husband of Melody Bledsoe, who perished with her two great-grandchildren in the Carr fire. He had no idea his home was endangered and had been running an errand. The blaze moved so quickly that when Bledsoe tried to go back home he could not get there as cars were blocking the road and the flames were so large he could not return on foot.
“I would have died right there with them. They’re that important to me,” he said, choking back sobs as he recounted how he had spoken with his panicked wife and grandson on the phone as the fire was arriving at their back door.
He maintains he never received an evacuation warning.
Jeremy Stoke, a Redding firefighter, died Thursday while battling the blaze as was Don Smith, an 81-year-old privately hired bulldozer operator, according to local reports.
Many residents of the western Redding and surrounding communities of Shasta and Keswick had less than 30 minutes to flee their homes. At least a dozen people are currently missing.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Brandon Showalter