Northern California – A Firefighter and a bulldozer operator have been killed in raging NorCal fires which have destroyed nearly 45,000 acres and countless homes, with only 3% containment.
It was the second firefighting death in California in recent weeks. Braden Varney, a bulldozer operator with Cal Fire, died fighting the Ferguson fire near Yosemite.
Today, authorities announced another firefighter was killed battling the Redding blaze.
The LA Times reports that Rick Plummer, director of marketing for Dignity Health’s Mercy Medical Center in Redding, said he left the Carr fire command post about 11 p.m. Thursday and arrived home to find a wall of flames a half-mile away and closing in. He was told to pack up and leave and spent the night sleeping on an air mattress in his office, he said. It was the first time he’s experienced an evacuation order.
Plummer said doctors, nurses, and hospital administrators worked through the night even as they got word their own homes had burned.
A second night of dry, powerful winds pushed flames over the Sacramento River into western Redding and north toward the city of Shasta Lake.
Mercy Medical Center has spent the last day preparing to evacuate, Plummer said. Five babies in the neonatal intensive care unit were taken to hospitals in Davis and Sacramento as a precaution, and strike teams of ambulances are on standby.
As of Friday morning, the hospital was still open and treating patients. Several civilians and firefighters were treated for burns there Thursday night, Plummer said.
A local television station, KRCR News, cut off its live coverage so anchors and other employees could evacuate the studio.
Last fall, Northern California’s wine country was hit by the most destructive fires on record, destroying thousands of homes and killing dozens of residents. In December, the Thomas fire tore through Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, becoming the largest single fire in state history.
Officials said there was little firefighters could do as the Carr fire swept into Redding amid triple-digit temperatures and strong winds.