The fire came out of the dry pines of the Trinity Mountains with such intense heat that it created its own wind pattern. Evacuating his neighbors in the River Ridge neighborhood, Redding Police Chief Roger Moore saw a towering coil of fire sucking debris in the sky like a tornado.
“It was just destroying everything in its path,” he said. “It was making a sound like a jet engine.”
As the Carr fire raced eastward, driven by fierce wind, it rushed down brushy canyons, up dry-grass ridges, through neighborhoods thick with trees and across the Sacramento River.
By Friday morning, two firefighters were killed and 65 homes were destroyed, including Moore’s. Officials identified one of the victims as Redding fire inspector Jeremy Stoke.
The Carr fire had burned more than 44,000 acres and was only 3% contained, officials said at a news briefing. About 38,000 people were evacuated in Shasta County.
Firefighters struggle to contain fires when they face steep terrain, hot weather, dry brush and other vegetation that can fuel a fire, said Greg Bertelli, an incident commander at Cal Fire.
“Any one of those factors will make containing a fire extremely difficult,” Bertelli said. “The Carr fire, at times, experienced all three combined. This fire is moving, at times, three or four different directions.”
Three Marin County firefighters were trapped when a stand of pinyon pines lit up.
Holed up in the fire engine as the fire roared through, they suffered minor to moderate burns to their hands, face, ears and nose, said Marin County fire Chief Jason Weber. One was taken to UC Davis Medical Center’s burn center.
Yosemite National Park is closed as the Ferguson fire burns well into its second week, taking a firefighter’s life and consuming 45,000 acres. And the Cranston fire has forced the evacuation of thousands of people in and around Idyllwild in the San Jacinto Mountains.
In Redding, the searing summer heat rising from the Sacramento Valley has been pulling coastal air over the mountains, creating a hard westerly wind.
The fire started in the Trinity Mountains on Monday and didn’t cause much alarm until Wednesday night, when dry wind drove it to Whiskeytown Lake, burning boats in a marina.
The next night it was poised to run into the west edge of Redding, a city of 90,000 just south of Shasta Lake.
Erica Bade and her family didn’t think they were in danger as they sat at the dinner table after watching the news. The fire was on the other side of the Sacramento River, about a mile away.
A nearby resident could be heard yelling at a neighbor, wondering why he hadn’t made preparations to leave.
Rice had family members sitting in a nearby vehicle ready to caravan away with him. He didn’t have time to get all he wanted from his home.