8 dead; California resource strained as 17 fires ravage state

By Susan McFarland
8 dead; California resource strained as 17 fires ravage state
The Carr Fire in Shasta County, Calif., has torched more than 100,000 acres so far and killed six people, authorities said. Photo courtesy Cal Fire Shasta County

July 31 (UPI) -- Fires raging across California have killed at least eight people, stretching the state's funds and resources thin as firefighters try to gain control.

About a quarter of the state's emergency funding as already been spent, just one month into a new fiscal year.


Fire crews as far away as the East Coast are coming to help battle 17 large wildfires, which already have 12,000 firefighters on the lines.

Cal Fire said the fires, which have burned about almost 240,000 acres, have destroyed more than 1,000 structures and are threatening 25,000 homes. More than 52,000 residents have been evacuated.

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One of the largest fires is the Carr Fire, which has killed six people, including two firefighters, and forced more than 39,000 people from their homes, making the blaze one of the most destructive in the state's history. It's burning near the northern California city of Redding. At least 19 people are missing in Shasta County, officials said at a community meeting Monday evening.

As of Monday evening, the fire had burned roughly 104,000 acres and destroyed more than 1,100 structures, including more than 800 homes. Another 4,000 homes are at risk, Cal Fire said in its most recent update Monday night.


Firefighters gained some ground Monday containing the fire, which has grown into the state's seventh-most destructive. It is now about a quarter contained, up from 20 percent earlier. It was just 5 percent contained late Sunday.

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Forecasters said conditions will be difficult Tuesday due to increasing winds, hot and dry weather, steep terrain and excess vegetation.

More than 3,600 fire personnel, 334 fire engines and 17 helicopters are involved in fighting the Carr Fire.

Officials have identified some of the victims -- including fire inspector Jeremy Stoke, bulldozer operator Don Ray Smith, resident Melody Bledsoe and her two great-grandchildren. Bledsoe and the children died after they became trapped in their burning house. The sixth victim was not immediately named.

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Two other people died while crews were battling the Ferguson Fire near Yosemite National Park. At a news conference Monday, officials grieved the death of Capt. Brian Hughes, who was struck by a tree over the weekend. The 33-year-old was a firefighter of the Arrowhead Interagency Hotshots.

Braden Varney, 36, a heavy fire equipment operator, died July 14 while battling the blaze.

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