Carr Fire destroys 874 structures; Containment at 17 percent

A deadly wildfire burning near Redding has now leveled nearly 900 structures and killed six people but state fire officials said Sunday they are slowly making progress in controlling the deadly blaze. 

Nearly a week after the Carr Fire broke out, Cal Fire said Sunday that 874 structures have been destroyed, including 650 homes. Containment stood at 17 percent Sunday night.

In addition to the six fatalities, the Shasta County Sheriff’s Office said they have received seven missing persons' reports. 

But there was a glimmer of good news Sunday as Cal Fire said the 3,000 firefighters battling the wildfire are slowly making progress.

“We are feeling a lot more optimistic,” said Cal Fire Chief Brett Gouvea. “We are starting to gain some ground rather than being on the defensive mode for this fire.”

Fueled by hot temperatures and dry vegetation, the fire has chewed through nearly 150 square miles of land since it broke out last Monday. At times, the fire burned so intense, it created whipping flames that resembled a tornado. 

Roughly 38,000 people have been forced to evacuate their homes, though some who live within the Redding city limits may be allowed to return home soon. 

“We just grabbed some things and we said, "whatever is here is temporary' and so we left,” said evacuee Larry Kelly.

Not everyone made it out safe. Authorities confirmed Sunday another body was found in a residence, bringing the death toll to six. Officials said the victim, who has not been identified, had received an evacuation notice but did not leave. 

The others killed in the fire include: 70-year-old Melody Bledsoe and her great grandchildren, 5-year-old Emily and 4-year-old James. 

“They tried to get help, they tried calling 911 and they couldn't get anyone out here,” said family friend Donald Kewley.

Also killed were Jeremy Stoke, a fire inspector with the Redding Fire Department, and 81-year-old Don Ray Smith, a privately-hired bulldozer operator from Pollock Pines.

“My sympathy goes out to their families and for the firefighters,” said Shasta County Sheriff Tom Bosenko. 

With the fire fight far from over, additional resources are on the way from other states, including 150 engines from as far as Florida.

The fires are also consuming police resources with additional officers on patrol for looters. 
“Everyone we come into contact in those neighborhoods,” said Redding Police Chief Roger Moore. “If they don't have a legitimate reason to be there, if we don't arrest them for looting, they'll be arrested for something else. It’s a no tolerance stance. We don't want people in the neighborhoods. People are getting victimized and it's unfortunate.”