One the most destructive wildfires in California history, the Carr fire, is still raging with only about 40% of it contained while elsewhere in the state, especially in the north, fires continue to expand.
Overnight a seventh person was reported killed by the Carr fire as another in the north of the state expanded by 25% overnight, leading the White House to declare a “major disaster” in California in a statement on Sunday morning. President Donald Trump has ordered the release of federal funding for recovery efforts.
The deadly Carr fire has scorched more than 145,000 acres as of Sunday morning; and as CNN reports, the wildfire which began on July 23rd was actually caused by a flat tire.
The CNN report details the Carr fire’s origins in late July — but one of the 17 currently burning across the state:
It happens countless times on roads across America: a vehicle gets a flat tire, usually just a temporary inconvenience.
But on one road near Redding, California, when a tire failed last month on a trailer and its rim scraped the asphalt, the result was catastrophic for an entire region.
The sparks that shot out July 23 from that minor incident, California fire officials said, ignited what is now the sixth-most destructive wildfire in state history.
The Carr Fire blazed a fiery path along Highway 299, lighting up mile after mile of dry brush as it crept up on residential areas.
One man, Ed Bledsoe, lost his wife and two great-grandchildren, ages 4 and 5, within only a 15 minute time frame.
The man’s family were victims of the previously reported “fire tornado,” or what some are calling a “firenado” that ripped through Redding, which produced whirling winds of fire in excess of 143 mph.
— Domenico Calia (@CaliaDomenico) August 2, 2018
“The tornado was hovering over the house,” Bledsoe’s granddaughter Amanda Woodley recounted to CNN. “It was just a tornado fire over the house.”
Ed Bledsoe and other family members gave an account of the unbelievable and tragic moments the fire tornado struck :
He said his son drove toward the flames in the hope of rescuing his family members. “My son said the grass wasn’t on fire, the trees were getting sucked up in the air and burning,” Bledsoe told CNN. “He said when he opened his doors, the leaves hit him like somebody was slapping him. He said it was sucking his breath out, and he got back in his car and tried to get out.”
Bledsoe was on the phone with his wife and great-grandchildren until the very end.
“It sucked the roof off the house and the walls fell out and the roof went right down on them,” he said.
“This is historic in the U.S.,” Craig Clements, director of San Jose State University’s Fire Weather Research Laboratory, told BuzzFeed News. “This might be the strongest fire-induced tornado-like circulation ever recorded.”
The blaze has even created its own weather system, according to multiple climatologist reports.
Known as a pyrocumulus cloud, the ominous red weather formations usually occur over volcanic eruptions or forest fires when intensely heated air triggers an upward motion that pushes smoke and water vapor to rapidly rise. They can develop their own weather patters, including thunderstorms with severe winds which then further fan the flames.
On Saturday morning an astrophysics professor and Chief Scientist at the Center for Planetary Science at St. Petersburg College, Antonio Paris, posted a surreal photograph he identified as “firenado” that occurred Friday:
Firenado In California yesterday. pic.twitter.com/PBSxg57fwF
— Antonio Paris (@AntonioParis) August 4, 2018
Meanwhile, a number of areas of the state, including parts of Shasta County where the Carr fire is still burning, are still under evacuation orders while firefighting teams endure exhaustion and casualties.
— BuzzFeed Storm (@BuzzFeedStorm) August 3, 2018
Among the six dead from the Carr Fire include two firefighters: one has been identified as Jeremy Stoke who was in the middle of a rescue attempt and another unidentified bulldozer operator killed while battling the flames. Some 1,500 structures have been burned to the ground in the Carr Fire alone, and state fire officials estimate the wildfires will cost California billions of dollars over the next decade.
“What we’re seeing in California right now is more destructive, larger fires burning at rates that we have historically never seen,” Cal Fire spokesman Jonathan Cox told CNN.
— Brian L Kahn (@blkahn) July 27, 2018
In Northern California, the Mendocino Complex Fire surpassed the size of Carr fire by the weekend, and is now the state’s largest at more than two-thirds the size of sprawling Los Angeles, which has forced the evacuation of nearly 16,000 residents and destroyed more than 100 structures.
New reports indicate the Mendocino Complex Fire is threatening 9,000 structures.
Eyewitnesses have described entire swathes of charred land and streets that look “like a bomb hit” with cars and homes turned to ash.
In total there are 17 wildfires which have ravaged pars of the state, some of them now nearly 100% contained, as over 14,000 firefighters from California and more than a dozen other states continue to work on the front lines.