Woman, two great-grandchildren die in California wildfire

About 3,500 firefighters trying to tackle blaze which has destroyed over 500 buildings

The death toll from a Northern California wildfire has risen to five after human remains believed to be those of a missing elderly woman and her two great-grandchildren were discovered.

Fire crews are continuing to battle flames that have devastated entire communities and put more than 38,000 people remained under evacuation orders in and around the city of Redding, about 257km north of state capital Sacramento.

The blaze has destroyed more than 500 buildings and continues to rage largely unchecked into a seventh day. More than 4,000 structures were threatened by the fire, officials said.

The Carr Fire, the most destructive of nearly 90 wildfires burning from Texas to Oregon, has charred almost 84,000 acres of drought-parched vegetation since erupting last Monday.


The weather on Sunday is expected to offer no relief for firefighters as the forecast anticipating temperatures of more than 37 degress with low humidity and gusty winds, the National Weather Service said.

As of Saturday night, some 3,500 firefighting personnel and a squadron of 17 water-dropping helicopters had managed to carve buffer lines around just 5 per cent of the fire’s perimeter.


Fire officials say the erratic behavior of the blaze, stoked by high winds and high temperatures, has complicated efforts to contain it.

The town of Keswick, with a population of about 450, was reduced to cinders, and two firefighters were killed.

Redding police on Saturday said they were searching for 17 people still unaccounted for.

Shasta County Sheriff Tom Bosenko later confirmed the discovery of three bodies at a fire-ravaged home on the outskirts of Redding.

He said they had not yet been positively identified but were believed to be remains of three victims identified by relatives as four-year-old James Roberts, his five-year-old sister Emily and their great-grandmother, Melody Bledsoe (70). The Los Angeles Times reported that Bledsoe's family had said she desperately put a wet blanket over the children as their home burned.

The children's mother, Sherry Bledsoe, was quoted by the Sacramento Bee as saying, "My kids are deceased, that's all I can say," as she left the sheriff's office.

So far this year, wildfires have scorched almost 4.3 million acres across the US, less than last year but still higher than the 3.7 million-acre (1.5 million-hectare) average for the same period over the last decade. - Reuters