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High winds and hot temperatures in Shasta County spread Carr Fire to nearly 7,000 acres

A fire in Shasta County ignited Monday by the mechanical failure of a vehicle has grown to nearly 7,000 acres as of Wednesday evening, Cal Fire said.

The Carr Fire, which is 6,773 acres, was downgraded from 24 percent contained earlier Wednesday to 10 percent in the evening.

The blaze is scorching Whiskeytown National Recreation Area northwest of Redding and forced the community of French Gulch to evacuate Monday afternoon, Cal Fire said. Highway 299 was closed Monday in both directions from Oak Bottom to the east side of Carr Powerhouse Road and will remain closed through at least Thursday morning, Caltrans said.

The fire has not crossed Highway 299 or broken containment lines to the south, Cal Fire spokeswoman Cheryl Buliavac said. Rather, the containment decreased because rising winds combined with temperatures over 100 degrees spread the fire in the northwest and northeast directions, through steep, rugged areas that are hard for bulldozers and firefighters to reach, she said.

There are “a lot of influences that really aren’t in our favor,” she said.

Cal Fire did not provide details of the mechanical failure that started the blaze, but Buliavac said Monday that the agency was investigating the possible involvement of a trailer. More than 1,100 firefighters are working to control the fire.

Temperatures were expected to peak Wednesday, Cal Fire spokesman Chris Anthony said, so fire activity was expected to increase.

“Resources worked throughout the night to increase containment but the fire remained active,” Anthony wrote in a news release Wednesday morning. “Steep terrain and access limitations for fire apparatus make it necessary for bulldozers to construct and improve containment line along ridge-tops. Firefighters will be working throughout the day to reinforce existing containment lines and constructing new line around the fire.”

Residents along Highway 299 west of Trinity Mountain Road to the base of Buckhorn Summit and along Whiskey Creek Road near the boat launch and day use areas are also under a mandatory evacuation order, Buliavac said. Evacuation centers have been established at Shasta High School, 2500 Eureka Way in Redding, and at Weaverville Elementary School, 129 S. Main St. in Weaverville.

California has secured a fire management assistance grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to aid containment of the Carr Fire, the state Office of Emergency Services tweeted Monday night.

Buliavac said the active and aggressive nature of the fire is unusual for this time of year.

“We’re seeing fire behavior that we don’t typically see until much later in the season,” she said, adding that vegetation is burning much easier than normal.