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Sonoma County firefighters help battle Carr fire in Redding; thousands flee homes

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How To Help

The United Way of Northern California has established the Shasta County Fire Relief Fund to aid victims of the Carr fire. To donate, go to www.norcalunitedway.org/CARRfire.

Sonoma County firefighters are assisting in the massive effort against the wildfire threatening to engulf the city of Redding, an onslaught of flames that some fire officials and Shasta County residents compared to the firestorm that overran the North Bay in October.

Two firefighters, one an inspector with the city of Redding and another who was a contract operator on a bulldozer, have died battling the Carr fire, which had grown to more than 48,000 acres after breaking out Monday in the hills northwest of Redding.

A strike team of firefighters from the Gold Ridge, Sonoma Valley, Rancho Adobe, Healdsburg and Lakeville fire departments left Tuesday to take part in the effort. Other local departments joined the fight later this week.

Among them were three Marin County firefighters who suffered burns fighting the blaze, including two men from Sonoma County. They were identified as engineer Scott Pederson, 37, of Santa Rosa, and firefighter Brian Cardoza, 26, of Petaluma.

The department in a statement said the unit faced a “sudden blast of heat from vegetation adjacent to a structure.”

The three men, including Tyler Barnes, 34, of Redding, were treated for burns to the ears, face, neck and hands, and were released from Mercy Hospital in Redding.

Cardoza was later transported to UC Davis Medical Center, where he was treated for second-degree burns to his face, nose and neck. He was back home Friday in Petaluma and will be off duty for an extended period of time to recover, said Bret McTigue, public information officer for the Marin County Fire Department. Cardoza joined the department only three months ago, McTigue said.

Pederson, a 19-year veteran of the department, and Barnes were also set to return home Friday evening.

Firefighters from Sonoma County worked Wednesday and into Thursday to defend homes around the town of Shasta, just east of Whiskeytown Lake, said Shepley Schroth-Cary, a battalion chief for the Gold Ridge Fire Protection District who is leading the local strike team.

“We saved quite a few,” Schroth-Cary said of the homes. “We also saw a number of homes burned down.”

The team worked nearly nonstop until their break at 8 p.m. Thursday, about the time the Carr fire began its nighttime run into northwest Redding.

That rampage drew parallels with October’s Tubbs fire, which erupted on a hot, windy night in Calistoga and sped west over mountain ridges and through canyons into Santa Rosa, traveling 12 miles in less than four hours.

Bruce McConnell, a Redding resident who lived in Sonoma County for 25 years, said he was aware of many people displaced by the October fires who were again imperiled by flames in Redding.

“It was just like Tubbs,” he wrote to The Press Democrat. “When the wind flipped (Thursday night), it crossed the (Sacramento) River and covered 2 miles in 15 minutes. We escaped with a wall of flames in front of us. Our house survived miraculously. Half the neighborhood looks just like Fountaingrove. Total devastation. Other neighborhoods were completely destroyed.”

On Friday, the Carr fire pushed further into some residential neighborhoods in Redding, where large swaths of the city of 91,000 residents were under mandatory evacuation.

How To Help

The United Way of Northern California has established the Shasta County Fire Relief Fund to aid victims of the Carr fire. To donate, go to www.norcalunitedway.org/CARRfire.

“The big difference is we are not getting the high, sustained winds,” Bob Norrbom, a battalion chief with the Sonoma Valley Fire and Rescue, said of the Carr fire. “You get a little wind and it’s off to the races.”

The Carr fire had destroyed 500 structures and damaged another 75 as of Friday evening.

Norrbom’s in-laws live in Redding, and he thought their house would be destroyed on Thursday night. On Friday morning, he drove by and the home was still standing. “It (the fire) went right up to the house,” he said.

Clair Bringhurst had moved a month ago from Santa Rosa to Redding with her husband and their three children to be closer to family. She was with their kids in Modesto this week while her husband, Chad, was hiking with a group in Lassen National Park. He was able to race back to their home on Thursday and pack up any necessary items that would be needed in case of an evacuation. Their home is about 6 miles from the fire on the city’s east side.

The family had 30 minutes to evacuate from their rental home north of Piner High School during the Tubbs fire, and spent a week away before being able to come back.

“What’s worse is the waiting,” said Bringhurst, who has been checking local media to get updates on the Carr fire. “There’s a couple of awesome reporters up there keeping us informed.”

She has been heartened by friends from Santa Rosa checking in on her. She added that her family had just updated their disaster supply kits, which they made sure they kept in the aftermath of the October fires.

A red flag warning was extended to Monday, with temperatures expected to peak at 110 degrees in Redding on Saturday.

“Everybody is working hard,” Schroth-Cary said.

You can reach Staff Writers Bill Swindell at 707-521-5223 or bill.swindell@pressdemocrat.com, and Meghan Herbst at 707-521-5250 or meghan.herbst@pressdemocrat.com.

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