Tuesday, 14 August, 2018

Bulldozer operator killed in California wildfire

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Troy Mann | 27 July, 2018, 19:36

An explosive wildfire tore through two small Northern California communities before reaching the city of Redding, killing a bulldozer operator and a Redding firefighter on the fire lines, burning three firefighters, destroying dozens of homes and forcing thousands of terrified residents to flee. One person died and three firefighters have been injured.

The fire broke out just before noon and quickly grew to 1,200 acres.

Wednesday night fire officials estimated that the Cranston Fire had burned approximately 4,700 acres. Winds are expected to increase later Friday and critical fire danger conditions remain.

The heart of Yosemite National Park remained empty the day after campers and hotel guests were evicted so firefighters could try to keep the state's largest fire from entering the park almost two weeks after it was sparked. Braden Varney, 36, a heavy fire equipment operator, was killed while batting another blaze near Yosemite National Park.

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Scott McLean said: 'The fire is moving so fast that law enforcement is doing evacuations as fast as we can. The California National Guard is helping with the firefight, McLean told CNN.

Dry grass and brush in steep terrain was fueling the blaze, according to Cal Fire officials.

"The fire is creating a huge wind vacuum and moving very rapidly toward west Redding".

Flames have consumed trees, houses and historic buildings in Shasta County for days and temporarily closed traffic along Highway 299.

"If you live in West Redding start packing and be prepared!" the California Highway Patrol said on Twitter. "We are going to leave the station because is now unsafe to be here". Fire officials said the mechanical failure of a vehicle sparked the blaze on Monday.

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Mercy Medical Center remains on alert for evacuation of the whole hospital, however, five babies have already been evacuated to nearby hospitals from the neonatal intensive care unit.

About 3,200 people were asked to evacuate more than 2,000 homes in the Idyllwild, Apple Canyon, Lake Hemet, Mountain Center, Hurkey Creek and Camp Scherman areas, according to the Forest Service. "Several members have lost their homes".

He said the hospital was preparing high-risk patients to be evacuated but there were no immediate plans to do so.

In response to the growing blaze, California Governor Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency for Riverside and Shasta counties.

The fire grew 15,000 aces overnight from Wednesday to Thursday, and by evening took on another 8,000 acres. "The Cranston Fire is under Unified Command between the USFS San Bernardino National Forest, CAL FIRE/Riverside County Fire Department, Idyllwild Fire Protection District and the Riverside County Sheriffs Office".

More than 1,000 firefighters are battling that blaze, which has scorched 7,500 acres and is only 5% contained.

The fire burning west of Redding, about 100 miles (161 kilometers) south of the OR state line, tripled in size overnight and then grew another 50 percent through the day to 45 square miles (115 square kilometers).

More evacuations have been ordered as a devastating wildfire torches an area in and around Redding.

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