California's Carr Fire Jumps Sacramento River; Blamed For 2 Deaths The fire that began earlier in the week tripled in size overnight Thursday, fueled by high winds and record-breaking temperatures. Firefighters called it a "fire tornado."
NPR logo California's Carr Fire Jumps Sacramento River; Blamed For 2 Deaths

California's Carr Fire Jumps Sacramento River; Blamed For 2 Deaths

An inmate firefighter pauses on Friday as emergency crews battled the Carr fire in Redding, California. High winds have made fighting the fire a challenge. Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images

An inmate firefighter pauses on Friday as emergency crews battled the Carr fire in Redding, California. High winds have made fighting the fire a challenge.

Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images

Updated at 11:55 a.m. ET

At least two people have died as a fast-moving fire in Northern California jumped the Sacramento River and charged into the city of Redding, sending residents fleeing ahead of the flames late Thursday. The Carr Fire has burned more than 44,000 acres and was only 3 percent contained as of Friday morning.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection announced early Friday that a private bulldozer operator who was working on an active section of the fire had been killed. Hours later, the department said a Redding firefighter also died, according to Capital Public Radio's Nick Miller.

The Carr Fire, one of several wildfires sweeping through the state, tore through Shasta and Whiskeytown, destroying homes and other buildings before moving into Redding, a city of about 92,000. Several firefighters and civilians have also been injured, fire officials said.

The fire that began Monday tripled in size overnight Thursday to 45 square miles as winds stoked the flames amid record-breaking heat and low humidity.

"Residents and firefighters are using the term 'fire tornado' to describe the Carr Fire," Miller reports for NPR's Newscast unit.

While live on air, KRCR was later forced to evacuate its studios.

"When it blew into Redding, west Redding, it was something that a lot of the old timers have never seen before as far as fire behavior," Cal Fire spokesperson Scott McLean said in Miller's report.

"Huge trees knocked over, just uprooted; smaller trees uprooted, just laying in the roadway; some trees laying across homes," McLean said of the scene. "And then the further I got into the subdivision, I came across several dozen homes that were destroyed."

Strong winds helped the fire spread overnight — and on Friday, conditions weren't expected to get any better, with hot dry weather that will hit triple digits, Cal Fire says.

A historic schoolhouse burns as the Carr Fire tears through Shasta, Calif., on Thursday, fueled by high temperatures, wind and low humidity. Noah Berger/AP hide caption

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Noah Berger/AP

A historic schoolhouse burns as the Carr Fire tears through Shasta, Calif., on Thursday, fueled by high temperatures, wind and low humidity.

Noah Berger/AP

The Sacramento Bee reports:

"Emergency personnel are reporting on social media that they are stopping structure and containment efforts in north Redding in order to focus on safely evacuating all citizens. A Cal Fire spokesman could only confirm portions of west Redding were under evacuation.

At 9 p.m., fire personnel requested that Redding Electric Utility shut off power to residents of North Redding. Reports on KRCR-TV, the ABC affiliate in Redding, confirm parts of the city are without power in an effort to prevent electrical equipment from sparking more fires."

"The fire is moving pretty rapidly and taking everything down in its path," Scott McLean, spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said late Thursday.

"Firefighters continue to work aggressively to build containment lines around the Carr Fire," Cal Fire said in an incident report at 7 p.m. local time. "Their efforts have been hampered today due to extreme fire behavior and unfavorable weather conditions."

Evacuations were ordered for areas around the city of Redding.

The Associated Press writes:

"Earlier in the day with flames exploding around Whiskeytown Lake, an effort to save boats at a marina by untying them from moorings and pushing them to safety, wasn't swift enough to spare them all.

Dozens of charred, twisted and melted boats were among the losses at Oak Bottom Marina.

'The only buildings left standing ... right now are the fire station and a couple of restrooms,' said Fire Chief Mike Hebrard of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. 'The boat docks down there - all the way out in the water - 30 to 40 boats caught fire when the fire laid down on top of them last night and burned those up.'"

As the Carr Fire burned through Shasta County, wildfires scorched several other parts of the state. The Ferguson Fire — which has now been burning for two weeks in central California — had burned some 46,000 acres as of Friday morning and continued to grow near Yosemite National Park. It was reported to be 29 percent contained.

In Southern California, the Cranston Fire has grown to 11,500 acres after it swept over 4,700 acres in just a few hours east of Los Angeles on Wednesday.

Gov. Jerry Brown has declared states of emergency for the three largest fires, authorizing the state to rally resources to local governments.