The death count from a Northern California wildfire rose to five Saturday after two young children and their great-grandmother who had been unaccounted for were confirmed dead.
“My babies are dead,” Sherry Bledsoe said through tears after she and family members met with Shasta County sheriff’s deputies.
Bledsoe’s two children, James Roberts, 5, and Emily Roberts, 4, were stranded with her grandmother Melody Bledsoe, 70, when walls of flames swept through the family’s rural property Thursday on the outskirts of Redding.
The fire sparked Monday by a vehicle in forested hills had scorched 131 square miles (340 square kilometers) by late Saturday, up slightly from 127 square miles (327 square kilometers) in the morning. It pushed southwest of Redding, the largest city in the region, toward the tiny communities of Ono, Igo and Gas Point, where scorching heat, winds and bone-dry conditions complicated firefighting efforts.
It’s now the largest fire burning in California.
Two firefighters were killed in the blaze, including a bulldozer operator who was helping clear vegetation in the wildfire’s path. He was identified as Don Ray Smith, 81, of Pollock Pines. Redding fire Inspector Jeremy Stoke was also killed, but details of his death were not released.
About 38,000 people were under evacuation orders, 5,000 homes were threatened and the fire was just 5 percent contained.