Sixth Fatality Confirmed in Massive Carr Fire Burning Near Redding

Firefighters douse a hotspot near various homes as the Carr Fire continues to burn near Redding on July 28, 2018. (JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)

The massive Carr Fire burning near Redding in Shasta County has killed a sixth person, fire officials announced on Sunday afternoon.

Shasta County Sheriff Tom Bosenko said they are not releasing the identities of any of the four civilians that have died in the fire at this time and that those identifications will come later from the coroner's office.

Family members identified 70-year-old Melody Bledsoe and her two great-grandchildren — 5-year-old James Roberts and 4-year-old Emily Roberts — as the first three civilian fatalities on Saturday.

"This is a terrible tragedy, and we're really frustrated about the sheriff's department because they didn't evacuate that area properly," said Jason Decker, the boyfriend of one of Bledsoe's granddaughters, on Saturday. "And it's resulted in two innocent children and a wonderful grandma dying."

Bosenko said Sunday that the area where the first three were killed was under an evacuation order, but it was unclear if they had been notified. Bosenko said officials are using a combination of reverse 911 calls, cell phone notifications, door-to-door notifications and loudspeakers on emergency vehicles to notify evacuees.

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"We had evacuation orders for the area in general, and we're looking to see if it was covering specific streets," Bosenko told KQED of the area where the three were killed. "It was very chaotic, and our officers were trying to do the best they could in advance of this."

Bosenko said evacuation notices were issued at one end of the street, but his office needs to check official records to see if their home specifically was notified because the code system used by officials to distinguish which houses had been notified was destroyed when the fire went through the area.

He said they had confirmed that the fourth civilian who died had received an evacuation order and did not evacuate.

A burned-out home near Centerville in Shasta County on July 29, 2018, destroyed by the Carr Fire.
A burned-out home near Centerville in Shasta County on July 29, 2018, destroyed by the Carr Fire. (Sonja Hutson/KQED)

Two firefighters have also died battling the blaze: 81-year-old private bulldozer operator Don Ray Smith of Pollock Pines and Fire Inspector Jeremy Stoke of the Redding Fire Department. Smith's body was found late Thursday after the fire burned over him and his equipment, and a Cal/OSHA spokesman said his agency was told Stoke was killed because of a fatal vehicle accident on a public road.

In addition to the fatalities, three members of the Marin County Fire Department suffered burns: Scott Pederson, 37, an engineer, and firefighters Tyler Barnes, 34, and Brian Cardoza, 26.

Bosenko said his office has cleared nine of the 16 missing persons reports they have received during the fire and are continuing to investigate the other seven.

Officials on Sunday afternoon said they were optimistic about increasing containment on the fire which has burned nearly 90,000 acres and was only 5 percent contained as of midday Sunday.

"Rather than being in the defensive mode on this fire all the time, we're starting to make some good progress out there," said Cal Fire Unified Incident Commander Chief Brett Gouvea.

Gouvea also said they expect to begin repopulating parts of Redding soon that have not been damaged but were evacuated as a precaution.

"You're going to see those [areas] repopulating very soon, and those orders are going to continue probably daily as we move forward," he said.

KQED's Sonja Hutson contributed reporting to this story.

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