Bulldozer driver killed in California wildfire

A private hire dozer operator died while battling the Carr Fire, a raging Northern California wildfire.

Posted: Jul 28, 2018 3:30 AM
Updated: Jul 28, 2018 3:30 AM

Officials were driving Friday through the smoldering remains of a neighborhood in the Northern California city of Redding, trying to determine the number of homes lost to a fast wildfire that also killed two people.

A CNN crew in one neighborhood estimated dozens of homes were nothing but piles of ash.

Residents and relatives were allowed back in to see whether there were items that could be salvaged or whether pets left behind could be found.

Chris Corona went to his parents' home to look for their cat, Jinx. The home was gone, but Jinx was there, safely hiding in a bush on a hillside not touched by the flames that killed all the other vegetation.

Corona wept as he thought of things they lost in the house.

"I can't believe it's gone. All those memories, childhood memories, " he said. "Stuff that parents save like stuff you built as a little kid for your mom. I'm just glad my mom got all the valuable stuff that she wanted out."

A neighbor had a similar experience: grabbed personal items in a hurry, forced to leave scared pet behind, returned to find dog alive.

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire, had authorities in the area assessing the damage.

The Carr Fire in Shasta County had ravaged the small communities of Shasta and Keswick before jumping the Sacramento River and burning houses on the outskirts of Redding, a city of 95,000 people 120 miles south of the California-Oregon border, according to Cal Fire.

The fast-growing wildfire forced mass evacuations as it moved into the city limits of Redding, authorities said.

Alistair Sullivan told CNN affiliate KPIX that he drove home Thursday night to find firefighters in his Redding neighborhood, telling him and neighbors to evacuate. He got some papers and his guitars and left.

"This came out of nowhere," he told the station outside his house that had burned down. "You try to grab things that you think are pretty important. ...Then you leave and you think -- 'I should have grabbed that.' "

A resident of French Gulch, west of Redding, said she had two hours to evacuate, but some people only had 30 minutes.

"It's terrifying," Rachel Hines told CNN affiliate KRCR, "You're frightened a little bit because you don't know if you're going to come back to your house and the town is going to be different."

The fire has destroyed at least 65 structures so far, damaged 55 others and threatens almost 5,000 homes and buildings, Cal Fire spokesman Scott Kenney said.

"This fire is making a significant push into the northwest portion of Redding," Cal Fire incident commander Chief Brett Gouvea told reporters. "This fire is extremely dangerous and is moving with no regard to what's (in) its path"

Two people died fighting the fire and three firefighters were injured. Eight people were treated for respiratory and burn-related injuries at Mercy Medical Center in Redding, a hospital spokeswoman said.

The blaze doubled in size in the last 12 hours, and now covers 44,450 acres, with only 3% containment, Cal Fire said Friday morning.

'This fire is out of control!'

Cal Fire said that a Redding firefighter had died but provided no details.

A private hire bulldozer operator, who was not identified, died Thursday while also battling the fire.

There have now been three fire-related deaths in the state in recent weeks. Braden Varney, 36, a heavy fire equipment operator, was killed last weekend while battling another blaze near Yosemite National Park.

"As we mourn the loss, we also battle a fire that is moving extremely quickly and erratically into western Redding," Gouvea said.

At least three firefighters have been injured, but the extent of their injuries is unknown, said Scott McLean, another Cal Fire spokesman.

More than 1,700 firefighters have been trying to control the blaze since it broke out Monday, but hot and windy conditions continue fueling it, officials said. Two hundred California National Guardsmen have been brought in to help firefighters, said Lt. Col. Jonathan Shiroma of the National Guard.

"The fire is creating a huge wind vacuum and moving very rapidly toward west Redding. This fire is out of control!" the California Highway Patrol said in a Facebook post Thursday night urging residents to evacuate.

The fire started Monday apparently due to the mechanical failure of a vehicle, fire officials said. Flames have consumed trees, houses and historic buildings in Shasta County for days and temporarily closed traffic along Highway 299.

It also struck the Oak Bottom Marina at Whiskeytown Lake, west of Redding, leaving about 40 boats and part of the dock burned or charred, the Redding Record Searchlight reported.

"The only buildings left standing down there right now are the fire station and a couple of the restrooms," Shasta County Fire Chief Mike Hebrard told the paper. "The concession stands are burned up."

KRCR, a Redding TV station and CNN affiliate, interrupted its newscast and evacuated its facility Thursday night as the fire approached.

"Right now we are being evacuated, that's why we are kind of closing out right now," said news anchor Allison Woods during a live broadcast. "We are going to leave the station because (it) is now unsafe to be here."

Evacuation orders caught many people in Redding off guard and caused traffic jams as they tried to get out of town, according to McLean, the Cal Fire spokesman.

"When it hit, people were really scrambling," he told CNN affiliate KTXL. "There was not much of a warning."

Firefighters face a difficult task in the days ahead, with dry conditions and temperatures expected to near 110 F on Friday.

"They're in triple digits through Thursday" with no rain forecast, CNN meteorologist Haley Brink said.

The fire also has disrupted rail travel. Amtrak said Coast Starlight service, operating daily between Seattle and Los Angeles, has been stopped between Sacramento and Klamath Falls, Oregon, until conditions change.

Babies evacuated from hospital

At least five babies are being evacuated from the neonatal intensive care unit at Mercy Medical Center due to the fire, hospital spokesman Rick Plummer said.

Some babies are being airlifted to hospitals in Sacramento, while others are being transferred in ambulances.

The hospital is not under a mandatory evacuation order, but the infants are being evacuated because of the time and intense resources needed to relocate them.

Medics and hospital staff have been affected by the fire as well.

"Several staff members have evacuated their own homes, then returned to care for patients," Plummer said. "Several members have lost their homes."

Hospital staff is preparing to evacuate the facility if needed, a Cal Fire spokesman said.

California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency Thursday for Riverside and Shasta counties in response to fires.

More than 80 wildfires in the US

The Carr Fire is among 89 active large fires scorching 14 states and one of six large wildfires in California, the National Interagency Fire Center said.

Elsewhere in California, the Ferguson Fire has prompted the closure of the most iconic areas of Yosemite National Park until Sunday, killed one person and injured several firefighters.

The blaze, which is raging west of the park, has burned 45,911 acres and is 29% contained, Cal Fire said Friday morning. About 3,800 firefighters are on the scene.

Another massive wildfire in the San Bernardino National Forest, known as the Cranston Fire, prompted thousands to flee their homes and led to the arrest of a man.

Brandon N. McGlover, 32, of Temecula was detained Wednesday and is facing five counts of arson to wildland, the Riverside County Fire Department and Cal Fire said.

Authorities said they believe McGlover started not only the Cranston Fire but other fires in the region as well.

More than 1,300 firefighters are battling that blaze, which has scorched 11,500 acres and is only 3% contained, according to San Bernardino National Forest officials.

The fire, which is about 5 miles southwest of Palm Springs, has led to the evacuation of the town of Idyllwild and other communities.

The area around Idyllwild was the site of a massive wildfire in July 2013 that burned more than 27,000 acres.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 307836

Reported Deaths: 7119
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto20784248
Hinds19894408
Harrison17493302
Rankin13316275
Jackson13099243
Madison9896210
Lee9859169
Jones8293160
Forrest7523146
Lauderdale7189237
Lowndes6265144
Lamar610784
Lafayette6028117
Washington5280132
Bolivar4770129
Oktibbeha455297
Panola4442103
Pearl River4420139
Warren4281118
Marshall4273100
Pontotoc416472
Monroe4057132
Union403775
Neshoba3988176
Lincoln3871108
Hancock372185
Leflore3468124
Sunflower329389
Tate322781
Pike3181104
Scott310572
Yazoo304368
Alcorn297764
Itawamba296876
Copiah293065
Coahoma289677
Simpson287484
Tippah284868
Prentiss275659
Marion265979
Wayne261341
Leake261173
Grenada254982
Covington254580
Adams245982
Newton244859
George237847
Winston225981
Tishomingo222067
Jasper219748
Attala213373
Chickasaw204857
Holmes186471
Clay182454
Stone179131
Clarke176876
Tallahatchie175540
Calhoun163230
Yalobusha158836
Smith158634
Walthall130543
Greene129433
Lawrence126323
Noxubee125933
Montgomery125542
Perry125138
Carroll120826
Amite120141
Webster113432
Jefferson Davis105432
Tunica102525
Claiborne101330
Benton97225
Kemper95226
Humphreys94332
Franklin81923
Quitman78916
Choctaw72817
Jefferson64828
Wilkinson64727
Sharkey49617
Issaquena1686
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 519071

Reported Deaths: 10712
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson754131487
Mobile37774798
Madison33868494
Tuscaloosa25283443
Montgomery23969565
Shelby23112238
Baldwin20638300
Lee15524165
Calhoun14286311
Morgan14140268
Etowah13664345
Marshall11957219
Houston10383278
Elmore9994200
Limestone9814147
Cullman9475188
St. Clair9429234
Lauderdale9218227
DeKalb8747181
Talladega8060171
Walker7092275
Jackson6755110
Autauga6727103
Blount6488135
Colbert6205130
Coffee5401112
Dale4768110
Russell428938
Franklin419982
Chilton4083109
Covington4053114
Tallapoosa3893146
Escambia388074
Dallas3527149
Chambers3500122
Clarke346360
Marion3066100
Pike305875
Lawrence295395
Winston272372
Bibb256458
Marengo248661
Geneva245875
Pickens232959
Barbour224955
Hale218775
Butler212366
Fayette208960
Henry187844
Cherokee182044
Randolph176941
Monroe171540
Washington164038
Macon154848
Clay149454
Crenshaw149357
Cleburne146041
Lamar139334
Lowndes136453
Wilcox124327
Bullock121340
Conecuh109028
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Sumter102932
Coosa99328
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