The wildfire roaring in northern California doubled in size in less than 24 hours and has now claimed five lives, including a woman and her two great-grandchildren who had been screaming for help as flames engulfed their home.
The woman was identified as Melody Bledsoe and the great-grandchildren as James Roberts, 5, and Emily Roberts, 4. The woman had called her husband, Ed Bledsoe, as the flames began licking their home, screaming for him to come home, The New York Times reported.
The children were “screaming for their lives,” Jason Decker, a friend of the family, told the paper. “The kids were saying: ‘Papa, papa, come home! The fire’s at the back door.'”
Authorities announced earlier in the week that two firefighters were killed fighting the blaze, called the Carr Fire.
Since the fire began Monday, it has has weaved erratically through the canyons, across the flatlands over the hills that make up the landscape of the area, gaining strength while gobbling the fuel of drought-stressed oaks, manzanita and brittle brush in its path. Gusting winds have only made the fire stronger and more unpredictable, and by Saturday it had burned more than 80,000 acres.
The Washington Post reported the fire was so strong it was producing wind gusts of up to 50 mph and fire whirlwinds — tornado-like funnels of fire, ash and combustible gas. More than 500 structures have been destroyed as thousands of people fled for their lives.
Here’s the story in photos.
Carr Fire: Redding, CA
Firefighters monitor a backfire while battling the Carr Fire on July 27, 2018, in Redding, California. Two firefighters have been killed battling the blaze, which has also killed three civilians. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
A home burns along Sunflower Road during the Carr Fire on July 27, 2018 in Redding, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Hundreds of structures have been destroyed, leaving officials to plead for evacuations. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Triple-digit temperatures were adding to the struggle to contain the fires. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
A firefighter uses a drip torch to light a backfire while battling the Carr Fire. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
As residents evacuated, at least one news station in the fire’s path was forced to close up. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
The fire was started Monday by “mechanical failure of a vehicle” in the Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, The New York Times reported, citing the California fire protection agency, also known as Cal Fire. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
In addition to the Carr fire, large wildfires are burning in Central and Southern California. The Ferguson fire caused the largest closing of Yosemite National Park in 30 years. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Cranston Fire: Idyllwild, CA
The Cranston Fire burns in San Bernardino National Forest on July 26, 2018 near Idyllwild, California. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
In the midst of the heat wave, fire crews have struggled throughout the week to battle Cranston’s vicious flames. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
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After burning more than 11,000 acres of land by its third day, containment of the Cranston Fire is still a ways off. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Thousands of residents get displaced as an evacuation center is set up at Banning High School. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
The investigation of the Cranston Fire has led to the arrest of 32 year-old Temecula resident Brandon McGlover, who has been book on five charges of felony arson. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)