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Children and great-grandmother killed in California wildfire

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Children and great-grandmother killed in California wildfire

Image: Sherri Bledsoe, Carla Bledsoe
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Marcio Jose Sanchez AP
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Two children and their great-grandmother are among five people to have died in the massive Carr Fire in Northern California's Shasta County, according to NBC Bay Area, which confirmed the news with a family member.

Five-year-old James Roberts, 4-year-old Emily Roberts and great-grandmother Melody Bledsoe were preparing to evacuate a home in Redding, California, and had called police when the fire struck and all three perished, according to the report.

At a news conference Saturday, Shasta County Sheriff Tom Bosenko said only that three members of the same family had been reported missing. About a dozen people have been reported missing in the area so far, he said.

Two firefighters also died on Thursday, 17 people are missing and tens of thousands have fled their homes.

The Carr Fire nearly doubled in size from 48,312 acres Friday night to 80,906 acres Saturday, with containment only at 5 percent, according to Cal Fire.

Evacuations were ordered on Saturday for some residents of Shasta County, as the Carr Fire raged for the third day. The blaze has destroyed or damaged more than 500 structures, officials said.

Justin Sullivan
A deer stands on a road covered with fire retardant as the Carr Fire burns in the area on July 28, 2018 near Redding, California.Justin Sullivan

"That number is probably higher than that," Unified Incident Commander Chief Brett Gouvea told reporters Saturday.

The Shasta County fire has forced as many as 38,000 residents to evacuate and as many as 6,000 homes are threatened, officials said. The 3,400 firefighters assigned to the blaze had a perimeter of about 100 miles to cover, they said.

Redding police Chief Roger Moore said looters are taking advantage.

"We're seeing several reports a day of people in neighborhood, driving through, going through road blocks that haven't been burnt, looking to steal items from homes," he told reporters Saturday. "If you have time, take your valuables out of the home or put them in a fireproof safe."

Two other deaths have been attributed to the Carr Fire, which started as a result of a vehicle breakdown: Fire Inspector Jeremy Stoke was killed while battling the blaze; a bulldozer operator was also reported dead Thursday. The second victim was identified as Don Ray Smith, 81, of Pollack Pines, California, according to KNTV.

Fourteen large fires were raging statewide — from San Diego County to Modoc County — as President Trump on Saturday declared a state of emergency in California. The governor's Office of Emergency Services, which yesterday reported that 102,028 had burned in the week's fires, now states 155,000 acres have gone up in smoke across the Golden State.

An army of 10,000 firefighters were assigned to blazes across California, according to Cal Fire.

On Friday officials at Yosemite National Park announced the venue would reopen Aug. 3 after being closed as a result of a 49,619-acre fire that is now nearly one-third contained, according to Cal Fire.

Cal Fire officials say the fires have been feeding off brush starved by more than a half-decade's worth of drought and then baked by the second record-setting heat wave of summer. Temperatures in Redding, the urban epicenter of the Carr Fire, were expected to reach 110 degrees today, according to the National Weather Service.

On Friday Cal Fire Chief Ken Pimlott, the state's top fire official, said residents should get out immediately when ordered to do so.

"Evacuate, evacuate, evacuate," he said. "Pay very close attention to social media, websites, local television and radio broadcasts."