Thousands of people have fled their homes as 5,000 buildings in Northern California are threatened by the raging wildfires. Extreme heat and gusty winds have caused "fire tornadoes" and the fires are set to continue.
The US' deadly Carr Fire in Northern California doubled in size again overnight into Saturday to affect land areas totaling 327 square kilometers (80,906 acres).
Two firefighters and three residents — a great-grandmother and two children — are known to have died in the fires while tens of thousands have fled their homes. More than 38,000 people in the town of Redding, on the Sacramento River, and the surrounding county were ordered to evacuate. Officials warned further orders were possible.
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, CalFire, said the hot and windy weather conditions would continue, and thus increase the danger from the fire, which was "extremely dangerous and moving with no regard to what's in its path," according to CalFire Chief Brett Gouvea.
"This fire is a long way from done," CalFire Director Ken Pimlott said on Saturday, adding that six days after the fire had started, it was only 3 percent contained.
The fire is believed to have been started on Monday when a car with a mechanical problem sparked a fire which spread, first in a slow-burn fire and then more actively in the high winds.
CalFire was issuing frequent updates via social media, including this on Saturday afternoon: "A #RedFlagWarning is in effect for northern California and the vicinity of the #CarrFire through Monday morning due to extreme heat and gusty winds. Use caution to avoid a spark and stay aware of your surroundings."
Pimlott said there were fire whirls, similar to tornadoes, whipped up by gale-force winds which had uprooted trees, moved vehicles and parts of roadways.
California Senator Dianne Feinstein encouraged people to pay attention to, and obey the evacuation orders with 14 large fires burning statewide:
While fires occur regularly during California's summer months, a five-year drought until 2017 caused much vegetation to die or dry out.
jm/bw (AP, Reuters)