While some residents were allowed to return to Redding and its surroundings, the Carr Fire continued to flare elsewhere Saturday, prompting officials to return to evacuation areas to urge residents to heed previous orders to leave.
Along the northern edge of the fire, California Highway Patrol officers and other law enforcement were canvassing French Gulch, urging people who defied original evacuation orders to leave as fire activity picked up. The blaze, which reached 145,015 acres (226 square miles) and is the sixth-most destructive in state history, was 41 percent contained Saturday evening.
“The sheriff knew there were people who had not evacuated,” said Cal Fire spokesman John Clingingsmith Jr., referring to the Shasta County Sheriff’s Office, which is in charge of evacuations. “And with the wind shifts ... this was (officials’) way of letting the residents know the fire has picked up.”
Fire crews working on suppression elsewhere were moved back into French Gulch during the day, Clingingsmith said, to assist law enforcement in getting the message out to residents and to quickly put out an “island” of flames that broke out about 2:30 p.m.
Residents of Igo, who have been evacuated since July 27, were among those posting to social media that the fire had jumped a containment line on a ridge, Clingingsmith said. An official told the Redding Record-Searchlight that while there aren’t new orders to leave, officials went door to door to the holdouts, saying they should leave now.
Clingingsmith said there were no new developments in the Igo area, about 9 miles from Redding, but that fire crews continued to work on containment lines. Another fire official told the Redding newspaper “nothing is going to affect Igo right now.”
Burning since July 23, the blaze has killed at least six people, razed 1,078 homes and 528 other structures and damaged 273 structures in total. It still threatens 1,229 structures, Cal Fire said. Reports of the death of a PG&E employee working in the fire area emerged Saturday; if confirmed, the fire’s death toll would rise to seven.
The fire is moving into grass and timberlands, where it will be more difficult to control, fire behavior analyst Don Boursier told the Los Angeles Times.
The Times noted that Redding has not received rain in 71 days and has seen 33 days of 100-degree temperatures, according to the National Weather Service.
On Saturday while touring the Carr Fire in Anderson, Gov. Jerry Brown formally requested from President Donald Trump a “Presidential Major Disaster Declaration” that would unlock federal assistance for residents impacted by the fires.
Emergency assistance would include financial help, crisis counseling, legal services, job assistance, food aid and more. Brown said he expects Trump to help California.
“The president has been pretty good about helping us out in disasters, so I’m hopeful,” Brown said.
He renewed his warning of worsening wildfire threats in the years ahead. Earlier this week, Brown said the wildfires will cost the state heavily.
The cause of the fire remains part of an “active, ongoing investigation,” according to Patty Wold, a spokeswoman for the National Park Service, which is leading the investigation with help from the U.S. Forest Service and Cal Fire. Officials said soon after the blaze started that mechanical failure of a vehicle was to blame, with Wold saying that includes its trailer.
The National Weather Service issued red flag warnings of critical fire weather conditions through Saturday night, expecting a series of dry low-pressure systems passing through the region to push winds as high as 35 mph. The fire weather outlook for Sunday indicated better conditions, though dry and hot conditions are expected to persist well into the week.
According to Cal Fire, roughly one-third of the state’s fire personnel are battling the Carr Fire, with more than 4,500 firefighters on the scene.