Thousands more evacuated from California's largest wildfire

Mendocino Complex Fire

The twin fires have destroyed 41 homes. - Two firefighters were killed fighting the blaze and three people, a 70 year old woman and her two great-grandchildren age four and five, perished when their Redding home was rapidly swallowed up by flames.

Forecasters said the highest threat areas included the so-called Carr Fire near the city of Redding and the Mendocino Complex of two fires north of San Francisco.

The blaze in the Redding area, 225 miles (360 kilometers) north of San Francisco, is the largest of 18 wildfires burning throughout California.

"Wawona, Mariposa Grove, Glacier Point, Yosemite Valley, Crane Flat, Big Oak Flat, and Hetch Hetchy are closed due to the Ferguson Fire", the National Park Service said in a statement on its website.

The National Weather Service issued red flag warnings of critical fire weather conditions through Saturday night, "This is a particularly risky situation with extremely low humidity and high winds".

Fueled by triple-digit temperatures, the blazes have put California on track for its most destructive fire year since 2008, in terms of area burned, said Cal Fire Deputy Chief Scott McLean. The twirling tower of flame reached speeds of 143 miles per hour (230 kph), which rivaled some of the most destructive Midwest tornados, National Weather Service meteorologist Duane Dykema said.

Those gusts were slowing efforts in the steep, rugged terrain to carve out buffer zones in front of the fire's leading edge, said Gabriel Lauderdale, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire).

The Carr Fire is 39% contained, but firefighters are reinforcing fire breaks to prevent strong, erratic winds from causing it to flare up again this weekend.




Lauderdale said 24,285 residents remained displaced as of Thursday morning - down from a peak of 38,000 - but the number was dwindling as more residents were allowed to return.

"This is a particularly unsafe situation with extremely low humidity and high winds".

The Carr Fire grew 10,000 more acres overnight as containment goes up to 41 percent, according to Cal Fire.

The fire has reached into remote areas of the country's third-oldest national park.

Adding that its estimates are, "Also based on historical comparisons to fires of similar size and magnitude in California, including the October and December 2017 fires in the state".

Yosemite Valley residents must leave the valley by noon Friday, National Park Service officials said. Varney's radio wasn't communicating with headquarters, so his assistant relayed messages - until they lost contact. Six people, including two firefighters, have died in the past week.

Varney was a 10-year veteran.

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