Family members say three people missing in the massive Carr Fire burning in Shasta County have been confirmed dead.
Sherry Bledsoe said Saturday that her two children — 5-year-old James Roberts and 4-year-old Emily Roberts — and her grandmother — 70-year-old Melody Bledsoe — died in the fire near Redding.
At a news conference on Saturday afternoon, Shasta County Sheriff Tom Bosenko said his office is still investigating the case but can only confirm that the three are missing at this time.
Bosenko said they are among 14 people who have been reported missing during the fire, but he says his office believes most of them are because people have lost contact with loved ones.
Family members had been desperately looking for them since flames leveled the home where they were stranded on Thursday. Bledsoe's husband was out getting supplies at the store when the boy called him and said he needed to get home because the fire was approaching.
“My kids are deceased, that’s all I can say,” Sherry Bledsoe said as she left the sheriff’s office, according to the Sacramento Bee.
Shelley Hoskison, one of Melody Bledsoe's granddaughters, posted on Facebook on Friday asking for help getting information about the three.
Hoskison's boyfriend, Jason Decker, told KQED the entire family is in mourning.
"I don't have any more tears to tear anymore, and it's heartbreaking, because I have a 4-year-old too," Decker said. "They used to play together, we'd have Christmas together. Her family is really tight up here. Everyone loves each other. My girlfriend has 12 brothers and sisters."
The fatalities bring the death toll to five since the massive blaze started burning Monday about 100 miles south of the Oregon border. On Saturday, the Shasta County Sheriff's Office identified 81-year-old Don Ray Smith of Pollock Pines as the bulldozer operator whose body was found late Thursday after the fire burned over him and his equipment.
Early Friday, Cal Fire confirmed that Fire Inspector Jeremy Stoke of the Redding Fire Department had also been killed. A Cal/OSHA spokesman said his agency was told he was killed because of a fatal vehicle accident on a public road.
In addition to the fatalities, three firefighters who suffered burns were identified Friday as members of the Marin County Fire Department: Scott Pederson, 37, an engineer, and firefighters Tyler Barnes, 34, and Brian Cardoza, 26.
As of Saturday evening, the fire had burned 83,800 acres, destroyed 536 structures, damaged 117 and threatened nearly 5,000 more. Numerous mandatory evacuation orders have been issued, and officials said more than 38,000 people had been displaced.
“Evacuations, as you’ve seen, have been brisk and often over the last 24 hours, and they’re still possible. We’re not taking any chances moving forward,” said Unified Incident Commander Chief Brett Gouvea. “Those evacuations are being put pretty liberally, and we’re getting people out of the way with well-enough time."
Bosenko said people who stay behind when ordered to evacuate endanger firefighters when they have to go into dangerous areas for rescues. He also said evacuation centers have been filling up with people who have not been ordered to evacuate, and he asked people to stop doing that.
The evacuation center at Shasta Community College has reached capacity, and additional evacuation centers are open at:
- Crosspointe Community Church, 2960 Hartnell Avenue, Redding
- Trinity High School, 321 Victory Lane, Weaverville
- Grace Baptist Church, 3782 Churn Creek Road, Redding
- Simpson College, 2211 College View Drive, Redding
A Redding police official said they've had several reports a day of looting, and asked residents to take their valuables with them when they evacuate if they have time.
Officials said they have a good handle on the fire coming into Redding, but there are still hotspots. A thick layer of smoke has prevented a lot of helicopters and aircraft from coming in, so most of the work has been done on the ground.
KQED's Sonja Hutson, Sara Hossaini, Ryan Levi and Bianca Hernandez contributed to this story. This post has been updated.