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California Wildfire Rages On

A firefighter walks past a home destroyed by the Carr Fire on Sunriver Lane in Redding, California, on July 27.A firefighter walks past a home destroyed by the Carr Fire on Sunriver Lane in Redding, California, on July 27.

Nine people were reportedly missing as a monster wildfire in northern California burned unchecked on Saturday after it killed two firefighters, destroyed hundreds of structures and sent thousands of frantic residents racing from their homes.

Some 3,400 firefighters on the ground and in helicopters and airplanes battled the 48,300-acre (19,500 hectares) Carr Fire early on Saturday as it ripped through Redding, a city of 90,000 people, in California’s scenic Shasta-Trinity area, Reuters reported.

More than 38,000 residents in Redding and elsewhere in Shasta County fled their homes as the fire began to gain speed and intensity on Thursday, destroying 500 structures and leaving Keswick, a town of 450, in smoldering ruins, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire) said.

The fire, which was just 3% contained after igniting six days ago, has been fed by high temperatures and low humidity, which were expected to continue for at least the next week, said CalFire Director Ken Pimlott. “This fire is a long way from done,” he said.

A bulldozer operator and a member of the Redding Fire Department were killed in the blaze. A Redding hospital said it had treated eight people, including three firefighters.

The flames erupted into a firestorm on Thursday when it jumped across the Sacramento River and swept into the western side of Redding, about 240 km north of Sacramento, before gale-force winds during the night created a fire “tornado”, fire officials said.

Firefighters and police were hustling door to door to usher civilians out of harm’s way, they said.

California has had its worst start to the fire season in a decade, with 289,727 acres burned through Friday morning, according to National Interagency Fire Center data.

Wildfires have blackened an estimated 4.15 million acres (1.68 million hectares) in the United States so far this year. That was well above average for the same period over the past 10 years but down from 5.27 million acres (2.13 million hectares) in the first seven months of 2017, NIFC reported.

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