Walls of flames are quickly ripping the Northern California city of Redding, where an "out of control" fire has killed one person and is forcing thousands of residents out of their homes.
Flames that turned the sky orange swept through the communities of Shasta and Keswick before jumping the Sacramento River on Thursday and reaching Redding, a city of about 92,000 people and the largest in the region. The Carr Fire in Shasta County has since claimed the lives of a bulldozer operator and a city of Redding firefighter, according to officials from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, the U.S. National Park Service and the Shasta County Sheriff's Office.
In Southern California, thousands remained evacuated as a suspected arson wildfire burned in the San Jacinto Mountains east of Los Angeles.
Evacuations were ordered for areas around the city of Redding.
Flames tower above firefighters during the Carr fire near Whiskeytown California Credit JOSH EDELSON AFP
An update at 8:10 a.m Friday from CAL FIRE included the information that the Carr Fire has destroyed 65 structures, but did not indicate whether any of them were residences.
A total of 100 homes were still considered under threat in the San Francisco Bay community of Clayton, although firefighters had stopped the progress of a small fire there after one house burned.
"Firefighters continue to work aggressively to build containment lines around the Carr Fire".
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The hamlet of French Gulch that dates to the Gold Rush era was evacuated after a vehicle problem ignited the blaze on Monday. Another shelter has been set up at an elementary school.
Hospital staff are preparing to evacuate the entire facility if needed, a Cal Fire spokesman said.
There have now been three fire-related deaths in the state in recent weeks. The closure was heartbreaking for travelers, many of whom mapped out their trips months in advance to hike and climb amid the spectacular views of cascading waterfalls and sheer rock faces.
A curtain of smoke and flames loomed over low-slung buildings in Redding, home to 90,000 people, with forecasts calling for wind gusts of 25 miles (40 km) per hour and temperatures of 110 Fahrenheit (43 Celsius).
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Martinez and his family had to cut their stay short as portions of Yosemite close today to allow crews to battle the Ferguson fire burning nearby. It's now reached 44,450 acres and is only three percent contained.
This year so far, nearly 4 million acres (1.6 million hectares) have been blackened by wildfires, above a 10-year average of 3.6 million acres (1.5 million hectares) over the same period, according to the National Interagency Fire Centre.
The fire in Shasta County was estimated at more than 31 square miles (80 square kilometers) Thursday morning.
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