A pair of wildfires that prompted evacuation orders for almost 20,000 people barreled Monday toward small lake towns in Northern California, and authorities faced questions about how quickly they warned residents about the largest and deadliest blaze burning in the state.
The fire has destroyed at least 966 structures, including 723 homes. The fire has killed six people - including four civilians and two firefighters - and destroyed more than 700 homes, some in the city of Redding.
About 12,000 firefighters have been battling what is among California's deadliest inferno of the year so far, and multiple members of Lutz's family are part of the crew helping to fight the blaze.
At least one person was arrested on suspicion of stealing from evacuated homes and authorities were keeping watch for other potential looters, said Deputy Travis Ridenour, whose home also burned.
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"I've been a lifelong resident of this community, and I've never seen a fire with such destruction here in this area ever before", Shasta County Supervisor Leonard Moty said of the Carr Fire during a news briefing.
The fire around Redding was among 17 significant blazes in the state on Sunday that had forced roughly 50,000 people from their homes, said Lynne Tolmachoff, a Cal Fire spokeswoman.
Almost 3400 firefighters battling the Carr Fire have begun to gain control of it, cutting containment lines around 20% of its perimeter by Monday morning, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire).
But not everyone heeded orders issued Sunday and Monday to evacuate.
The Carr fire last week, aided by a weather anomaly "just exploded the rate of spread of the fire that we have not seen before", he said. Melody Bledsoe (70) died, together with her great-grandchildren ages 4 and 5 as she held a wet blanket over them, her granddaughter Amanda Woodley said on Facebook. In some areas, thousands of tired residents were allowed to return home. Firefighters made progress on the fire which is now at 20 percent containment.
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In addition, major fires continue to burn outside Yosemite National Park and in the San Jacinto Mountains east of Los Angeles near Palm Springs.
To the southwest, the River and Ranch wildfires, known as the 23,000-acre Mendocino Complex, has forced thousands to evacuate as it has threatened 10,000 homes. State fire spokesman Scott McLean says it's the ninth most destructive wildfire in state history.
Bledsoe said he did not know his home was in danger when he left his wife and great grandchildren to run an errand on Thursday.
The sheriff has said the fire was moving fast, but authorities still alerted residents in a variety of ways, including going door-to-door and using loudspeakers on emergency vehicles.
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